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For other uses, see Capon (disambiguation).
A plucked capon with its head, feet and tail feathers still attached.
Live capons in Hainan, China. Note the small head, comb and wattle

A capon (from Spanish capón) is a rooster or cockerel that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh for food and, in some countries like Spain, fattened by forced feeding.

In the United Kingdom, birds sold as capons are chemically or physically castrated roosters (cocks in UK).[citation needed]


The origins of caponized chickens are contested. Such culinary practices existed far-east within ancient China as well as Europe from Greek and Roman empires.[1]

One of the earliest records of caponization occurred during the time of the Roman Republic. The Lex Faunia of 162 BC forbade fattening hens to conserve grain rations. To get around this the Romans castrated roosters, which resulted in a doubling of size.[2]:305 It was also practiced later throughout the medieval times with gastronomic texts describing capons as preferred poultry since the ordinary fowl of the farmyard was regarded as peasant fare and "popular malice crediting monks with a weakness for capons."[2]:309

The practice of caponization found its way in modern day America through the east of Philadelphia where the industry is predominant. Today the nation of France is internationally renowned for maintaining a strong caponization tradition with widespread and established industries throughout the country.[1]

William Shakespeare mentioned capon in the famous "All the world's a stage" monologue from his play As You Like It (written c.1600). He similarly describes capon as a food of the wealthy. The monologue describes human life as consisting of seven stages, and the fifth stage is a middle-aged man who has reached the point where he has acquired wisdom and wealth. The monologue describes the fifth stage as: "The Justice, In fair round belly, with a good capon lin'd".

Effects of caponization[edit]

Caponization is the process of turning a cockerel into a capon. Caponization can be done by surgically removing the bird's testes, or may also be accomplished through the use of estrogen implants. With either method, the sex hormones normally present are no longer effective. Caponization must be done before the rooster matures, so that it develops without the influence of sex hormones.

Capons, due to the lack of sex hormones, are not as aggressive as normal roosters. This makes capons easier to handle and allows capons to be kept together with other capons since their reduced aggressiveness prevents them from fighting.

The lack of sex hormones results in meat that is less gamey in taste. Capon meat is also more moist, tender and flavorful than that of a cockerel or a hen, which is due not only to the hormonal differences during the capon's development but also because capons are not as active as roosters, which makes their meat more tender and fatty.[3]

Capons develop a smaller head, comb and wattle than those of a normal rooster.

Capons are fairly rare in industrial meat production. Chickens raised for meat are bred and raised so that they mature very quickly. Industrial chickens can be sent to market in as little as five weeks. Capons produced under these conditions will taste very similar to conventional meat, making their production unnecessary.

Specialised production[edit]

Capon is a specialty of Bresse, in France and of many regions of northern Italy, such as Piedmont, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna and Marche.


  1. ^ a b Rob. R. Slocum; United States. Dept. of Agriculture (1911-05-22). "Historical Sketch". Farmers' Bulletin. Capons and Caponizing. 452. Animal Husbandman in Poultry Investigations, Bureau of Animal Industry. University of Minnesota: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 5. 
  2. ^ a b Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat (trans.: Anthea Bell) (revised ed. 2009). "The History of Poultry". The History of Food. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 305–15. ISBN 978-1444-30514-2.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Mrs A Basley (1910). Western poultry book. pp. 112–15. 

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