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What is a Capon?

A capon is a castrated rooster.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2014
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A capon is a castrated rooster. Capons are considered by many people to be a boutique and old fashioned sort of food, and they tend to have more tender, flavorful flesh as well as a higher fat content. The markedly different flavor profile of a capon is distinctive to consumers once they taste it, especially when the capon has been conscientiously raised.

Since most poultry is mass produced commercially, it can be difficult to find a capon unless a consumer has access to a quality butcher or small family farm. Experimenting with capon is considered to be well worth the effort by some.

The process of turning a rooster into a capon is known as “caponization.” Caponization happens between six and twenty weeks of age, depending on the producer and the chicken breed. Heritage chicken producers remove the testes of the cockerel surgically, while larger producers tend to induce caponization hormonally with the use of estrogen implants. The result in either case is a neutralization of the sex hormones which normally develop in roosters.

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As a result of caponization, a capon becomes much more mellow, losing the aggression commonly associated with roosters. This makes capons easier to handle, and also changes the way in which their meat matures. Capons have more tender, fatty flesh because they are not as active as roosters are. They also tend to taste less gamy, because they do not develop sex hormones, which can impact the flavor of the flesh. In addition, their bodies undergo small physical changes, including the development of a smaller head, comb, and wattle.

Around the farmyard, a capon is much more safe than a rooster, because the birds are not aggressive. Capons can also be kept together without the issue of potential fighting. In the kitchen, roast capon is moist, flavorful, and very tender since the flesh starts out tender and the higher fat content acts as a natural basting agent. A high quality capon has a dramatically different flavor than traditional roast chicken.

Unfortunately, the industrialization of meat production has made capons rare. Chicken breeds raised for meat are engineered to mature quickly, so that they can be sent to market in as little as five weeks. This rapid development has an impact on overall flavor and quality of the meat which most consumers are not even aware of because they have never tasted more naturally raised meat. A capon raised in industrial conditions will taste similar to conventional meat, making the process rather pointless.

To obtain a capon as well as more flavorful and sustainable meat in general, consider acquainting yourself with a boutique butcher. Boutique butchers often butcher their own animals, or purchase meat from small local farms and abbatoirs. A small farm has the facilities and the time to raise meat slowly on natural fodder, resulting in meat with a more developed and interesting flavor. These farms will also provide capons, although you should put an order in early if you need a capon for a special occasion to ensure that it arrives when you need it.

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anon938792
Post 18

@post 11: If the bird was crowing (or trying to) prior to surgery, it will still crow. It's best done as young as possible, because the glands become larger, softer and more fragile as the birds grow up - it's much easier to make a 'slip' of a 10 week old than a 6 week old.

Done at the appropriate age for the breed, it's pretty straightforward, and with practice can be done in about five minutes - unless you're that Chinese guy on youtube, who does it in less than two. Not to infer that it's simple. The best analogy I can think of is taking a grain of rice out of a dark ping-pong ball through a coin slot. It does take some practice. In my experience, a 2 percent loss seems a bit high. So far, out of six hatches, I've lost one bird.

anon304788
Post 17

My grandparents had a farm, and we never had a turkey at Thanksgiving. My mother said that it was because a capon was much more juicy. And to think I felt deprived because we didn't have a turkey!

anon243566
Post 16

Contrary to post 12, food is the prime driver, since once it's done, they are either food or pets.

anon207585
Post 15

Surgical caponization of roosters can be done by farmers with a loss rate about 2 percent. The capon will usually double in size up to seven pounds with large breast meat similar to a turkey. I grew up in the farming area of MN and it was demonstrated to the high school FFA students. My buddies and I went home and did about 100 roosters and only lost two.

anon153862
Post 14

In what century were cockerels first caponized?

anon153594
Post 13

I'm looking for electrical caponizing set. My mother had one to caponize. Does anyone know where I could get one.

anon125818
Post 12

One of the first things every high school vocational agriculture course learns is how to caponize chickens. Food is not the prime driver, it's partially done to protect the health and safety of the flock from an excess of roosters.

anon118454
Post 11

I am interested in a capon not as food, but as pets. I have chickens now, but will move to a neighborhood that does not allow chickens except as a pet. since roosters crow it would disturb the neighbors. Do capons crow, and do they lose their beauty as roosters? I like the colors.

anon77738
Post 10

I grew up on a chicken farm where my folks made capons first surgically and later with hormone implants. I have wondered what eating all those hormone-induced capons have done to my health since I have had many problems with my reproductive system. Do you have any information on this?

anon76422
Post 9

where can i get instructions how to castrate a rooster? i would like to raise my own.

anon75749
Post 8

Milagros: If you'd ever eaten Capon you would understand that your question isn't necessary!

anon59138
Post 6

We are very lucky to have a source for capons and prefer them for their flavor and tenderness. If you eat beef, then you are most likely eating steers and cows. Bulls that are castrated are called steers. The meat is much more tender and the weight gain is excellent.

anon57941
Post 5

By observation, capons seem happier than intact cocks, as evidenced by their tendency to be less aggressive, an obvious indication of contentedness. Don't worry about them. The simple procedure of caponization makes them more appealing as a food, and it also seems to make them more happy as a farm resident.

anon53983
Post 4

Castration of animals is done all the time and for so many reasons. This seems like one of the lesser evils done to an animal in the name of food. Foi gras seems way worse to me.

milagros
Post 2

I wonder if it is necessary to perform this rather serious procedure for the sole purpose of improving the taste of the meat?

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