Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Silhouettes of different poultry species
Silhouettes of different poultry species (Image by Vlad Klok on Shutterstock.com)

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word poultry? For most people in the United States, chicken is what immediately comes to mind. While it is certainly the most common type of poultry raised in the United States, it is not the only kind. Other birds in the poultry category are turkeys, ducks, geese, quail, pheasants, ostriches, and many more.

The term poultry actually refers to a variety of bird types raised on farms for food, fiber, or entertainment. That’s right, entertainment – and we aren’t talking about dancing chickens! The most common entertainment variety is pigeons. You can raise pigeons or even have them carry messages for you.

Expanding our view of poultry

Poultry is a big part of the American diet. We consume it in many forms – meat, eggs, broth – and it is included in much of the food we eat. For example, we may think about turkeys only at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Yet turkey meat is now included in a variety of everyday food items – think turkey bacon!

The business of poultry

Poultry is big business in the United States. In 2013 we produced more than:

  • 50 billion pounds of chicken meat (produced mostly in Georgia and Alabama)
  • 7.5 billion pounds of turkey meat (produced mostly in Minnesota and North Carolina)
  • 95 Billion chicken eggs (mostly in Iowa

Want to see how poultry farming works? Check out these videos for an up-close look at different types of poultry production in action:

Farm to table: Virtual poultry farm tour

Turkey farm tour

Virtual egg farm field trips