You are here
Guinea Fowl - well worth trying
Origin and legends
The domestic guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) comes from Africa. Today, it still lives in groups in the wild, in open country or perched in trees. It was imported by the Greeks and Romans, who used it as an offering to the gods and reared it in the farmyard.
From the Pharaoh's hen to the Spanish Pintado
Called the ‘Numidian hen’ by the Romans, the ‘Turkish hen’ when the Byzantine Empire fell, and ‘Pharaoh's hen’ or ‘Indian hen’ in the 16th century, it became ‘pintado’ in Spain (meaning ‘made up’) a century later,a name it was given for the pointed casque and two red wattles on either side of its beak.
Inconsolable Greek Guinea Fowl
Aristotle gave it the name of ‘Meleagris’. The guinea fowl was the result of the transformation of Meleager's sisters into these doleful birds. According to mythology, Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, changed his sisters into guinea fowl after the death of their brother Meleager, king of Macedonia. Despite his efforts, their incessant crying left white speckles on their grey plumage.
The common or domesticated guinea fowl (Numida meleagris or helmeted guinea fowl) has kept its cautious wild character from its ancestor. This gallinaceous species of bird belongs to the Numididae family. In the past, it was indigenous to North and South Africa, but has become rare due to excessive hunting. It can still be found in the wild south of the Sahara, in Mozambique, Madagascar, South America, Asia and on islands in the Indian Ocean. There are also populations in the Caribbean Islands.
The guinea fowl lives in small groups. It runs fast on relatively long legs and rarely ever flies. Its call is a harsh cackling, that is often described as screeching and squawking.
The guinea fowl is omnivorous and feeds on green leaves, fruit, seeds and insects in areas dotted with trees and bushes.
In a class of its own!
Although the guinea fowl is usually thought of as ‘prime’ poultry by consumers, the public sees it as natural, traditional, original, and keep its special flavour for festive occasions.
It is true that the guinea fowl is often eaten over Christmas and the New Year, but its consumption is developing throughout the year, particularly at the weekend.
Guinea fowl is distributed by both traditional channels (markets, butchers, poulterers and others) and supermarket distribution.
Honest to goodness, guinea fowl is good!
With 170 kcals for 100 grams, the guinea fowl is one of the leanest meats. Similarly, it is well balanced in good fat.
This kind of poultry contains monounsaturated fatty acids for the most part, making it low in cholesterol and an excellent slimming ally.
Guinea fowl boasts being one of the forms of poultry with the highest content in protein, with 21.70 g for 100 grams.
Nutrition facts for 100 g of whole guinea fowl
A unique flavour
Deliciously tasty, half way between the flavour of game and other poultry.
Really easy to cook and absolutely delicious!
The guinea fowl is perfectly suited to today's consumers. With its unique taste, it can be cooked to match everyone's appetites: traditional, steamed, stir-fried, en papillote, a la plancha or barbecued. Whole or cut, fresh or frozen, it is ideal for everyone – from to family to couples, and from gourmets keen on patiently cooked food to young workers looking for quick simple solutions.
Guinea fowl as a cut product: thighs and breasts so easy to prepare fried or barbecued.
With friends or family
A whole oven-ready guinea fowl or a guinea fowl capon for festive occasions.
France, the World Champion
Introduced into Western Europe in the 14th century by the great explorers, it is now traditionally reared for its meat, particularly in France in the last 50 years. The main breeding regions are the Atlantic shoreline (from Normandy to Aquitaine), Rhone-Alpes and the Centre.
With more than 30 million guinea poults raised in 2013, France alone represents ¾ of the European production, which makes it the largest producer and consumer of guinea fowl in Europe (well ahead of Italy), but also throughout the world.
Guinea Fowl Production
The rearing of guinea fowl has greatly improved since the 1970s. Modernization, with a concern for a selection of fillets based on size and quantity, has become increasingly rational, with improvements in sanitation and building design.
There are two successive and distinct stages in guinea fowl production:
1- The production of one-day guinea poults: the selection, multiplication, incubation, and hatching of one-day guinea poults for sale.
2 - Breeding: due to the guinea fowl's wild character, breeding conditions are close to that of game. The long life of guinea fowl, as well as their low density when reared, justifies a relatively high cost price. Better quality obviously has a heavy incidence on cost.
Each production method (standard, certified, quality label and organic) can be distinguished by the type of habitat (size of farm and type of building), the breeding stock density, feed, access or not to an outdoor enclosure, and the breeding period. However, in all these types of production, the male and female guinea fowl (hen and cock) are raised together on bedding and can move around the poultry houses freely. Guinea fowl is not battery raised.
It should be pointed out that guinea fowl is only eaten once it has reached maturity, whilst other poultry is consumed much younger. The delicacy of its meat requires a longer breeding period and particular care in its diet. 1kg live-weight of guinea fowl requires 50% more food than 1 kg live-weight of chicken or turkey.
France is the only country in the world to have undertaken a selection process to improve egg laying among breeding guinea hens, feed conversion ratio, conformation, homogeneity, disease resistance, etc., while preserving its specific nature, in particular the fine flavour of its meat, half way between poultry and game.
After a reorganization in 2013, a French company of poultry breeding now controls the two guinea fowl site selection and supplies the world market for the sale of guinea fowl breeding (about 280,000 to 290,000 breeding per year). This company supply the french market which absorbs over 80% of actual breeder and export 13% to our European Union partners (including Italy) and 4% to Third Countries.
Incubating and hatching:
Four incubating hatcheries in France set, incubate and hatch guinea fowl eggs. Approximately 50 million hatching eggs are produced per year, 1 million of which is exported. In 2014, 47.3 million guinea fowl hatching eggs were incubated for a total of 31.4 million guinea poults hatched.
On average, 600,000 baby poults are placed per week, two thirds of which enter a standard type of breeding and 32% of which a “Label rouge” (Red label) type of breeding. Few farmers specialize in guinea fowl. More often than not, poultry farmers will alternate their production with one or two batches of guinea fowl during the year.
The manufacture of guinea fowl feed:
Guinea fowl feed is made by companies specializing in the manufacture of poultry feeds. The feed tonnage for guinea fowl has seen a falling trend in recent years due to the triple effect of:
- Stagnation, or even a decrease, in numbers of guinea fowl
- Improvement of feed conversion ratios, particularly in standard breeding
- An increase in the market share of standard guinea fowl production in relation to the “Label rouge” (Red label) type of production, the feed conversion ratio of which is higher.
In 2014, the guinea fowl feed tonnage manufactured in France was in the region of 164.8 thousand tons (1.7% reduction).
Every year, 32 thousand tons of guinea fowl are slaughtered (+1.5%). 80% is carried out by 4 companies.
Another characteristic, is that due to an increase in the use of the guinea fowl during festive periods, 15% of them are slaughtered in December alone, i.e. more than twice the quantity of the months of July and August. 31.6 thousand tons of guinea fowl were slaughtered in France in 2014.
Although cuts affect less than 5% of free-range “Label rouge” red label guinea fowl, despite a constant increase in this figure, nearly 60% of standard guinea fowl are now cut. 10.55 tons of guinea fowl cuts were marketed in 2014. In virtually every instance, guinea fowl cuts result in 4 main pieces, each corresponding to an individual portion:
- 2 legs (with thighs).
- 2 supremes (breast fillet with skin and first section of the wing).
45% of French farmed guinea fowl is destined for the domestic market, while 40% is for out-of-home catering and 15% for export. In comparison with other poultry, the consumption of guinea fowl is characterized by:
- A large share of out-of-home catering.
- A large share of traditional channels for household purchases.