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A plucked capon with its head, feet and tail feathers still attached.

A capon is a rooster or cockerel that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh for food.

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


The Romans are credited with inventing the capon. 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.[1]:305 European gastronomic texts of the past dealt largely with capons, as the ordinary fowl of the farmyard was regarded as peasant fare, "popular malice crediting monks with a weakness for capons."[1]:309

Effects of caponization[edit]

Capons in Hainan, China, where they are commonly eaten during Spring Festival.

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.[2]

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 Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat (trans.: Anthea Bell) (revised ed. 2009). "The History of Poultry". The History of Food. John Wiley & Sons. p. 305–15. ISBN 978-1444-30514-2. 
  2. ^ Mrs A Basley (1910). Western poultry book. pp. 112–15. 

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