Why Doesn't Chicken Have A 'Food' Name?

Think about it — cows are called 'beef', pigs are called 'pork', calves are called 'veal'. Even rubbish meat like sheep and deer get their own special food names ('mutton' and 'venison', respectively). But chicken is just plain old 'chicken'. Clearly, something needs to be done about this.

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Chicken picture from Shutterstock

As far as we can tell, the English speaking world hasn't bothered to put a culinary stamp on one of the most popular meats on the planet. Meanwhile, there's about fifty food words for egg depending on how you cook it. What's all that about, eh?

Now before you storm the comments section with screams of "poultry", bear in mind that this word is used to describe all manner of farm bird (turkey, quail, duck, emu, goose; you name it.) Plus, it actually refers to the living animal rather than the meat — it's basically the avian equivalent to 'cattle'. So we can confidently cross poultry off the list.

Likewise, 'fowl' is a generic word for bird that has nothing to do with meat or food. And KFC is just a brand name, natch. The only culinary phrases for chicken we can think of are the US words 'fryers', 'broilers', and 'roasters' — but these are just cooking methods that relate to the size of the bird at hand.

This is poor form on a number of levels. Firstly, it makes our language look lazy and stupid. Secondly, it serves as a constant reminder that the delicious meal in front of us was once a living creature. You'd never see a restaurant put 'roast cow' or 'braised sheep' on the menu — why aren't chicken eaters afforded the same level of respect?

We think it's nigh time that this linguistic oversight was rectified, which is where you come in. Just as we did with the afternoon equivalent of 'brunch' (AKA 'betwinner'), we're enlisting our readers to come up with a suitable food name for chicken.

Once our feathery friends have been rendered into finger lickin' meat, what should they be called? The winning entrant can have an Oporto burger on us. Unclip your wordsmith wings and let the suggestions fly!


    Glad to see you are focusing on the important things in life Chris

      It's what I'm paid for.

        It is bad, and you are good at it.

    "Clearly, something needs to be done about this."

    No it doesn't.

    Also why isnt 11 pronouned One Teen and 12 Two Teen.................

      Eleven evolved from old German 'ainlif', meaning 'one left' (after ten). Twelve is the same, from 'zwelif', meaning 'two left'.

        Thank you Zombie Jesus may you come again

          But only if he warns her first!

          *buh dum tiss!*

        Why also ine teens the Tens are pronouced 2nd ( ie 14 four Teen ) and in the 20's the Tens are pronouced First .( ie Twenty One )

          I assume that's just a side effect of usage - the -teen suffix came from German (again) in a time when counting above 20 probably wasn't all that necessary. Consider yourself lucky we don't speak French, where 71 is "60 plus 11" and 80 is "Four 20s".

            Interesting you bring up French, for this is where the words Beef, Pork and Veal come from and consequently where the 'other' word for chicken should come from: Poulet.

              Good idea, English should steal the needed word from another language... yet again!

              We don't have to limit it to French or German either...

              There, we now have a nice easy pathway to a solution!

                Whoops, I see others more or less suggested this below

            Indeed! The French and their crazy counting!


      Don't forget 13, 20 and 30 not being threeteen, twoty and threety
      And 15, 50 both using fif instead of five
      14 uses the right spelling of four, but 40 is different

      How much does that come to? That will be twoty four dollars and threety five cents...

    Even rubbish meat like sheep

    Damn it, Chris. Mutton is awesome when cooked right! Usually much better than lamb as well.

      Aaaaahhh, I think no!

      As a person from a family with a long line of Sheep farming, in Australia and all the way back to Scotland, this opinion is so wrong.

      Lamb all the way - real young lamb, not mutton masquerading as lamb!

    It hardly makes our language look lazy and stupid, when it is precisely the incorporation of French words (boeuf, mouton etc) that has given us the extra vocabulary not enjoyed by other languages.

      Spot on memeweaver, glad someone raised this. It's not a lack of an alternative name for chicken, these other words - completely unrelated - are part of the broad history of the english language swallowing foreign words. I guess we could start calling chicken poulet if we were that desperate to be consistent...

        I was going to post this. All our meat names are derived from the French, so "poulet" would probably be the only correct term. Or if you "Anglicise" it then it'd probably be just "Poule" (pronounced POOH-el).

      Not 100% sure but isn't the Spanish for pork (cerdo) *also* the Spanish for pig? Meaning that the Spanish eat roast, fried, minced, etc pig. Does that make Spanish a lazy, stupid language too?

      Try cantonese:
      Chocolate - "ju-go-lick"
      Bus - "ba-si"
      Taxi - "dixi"

      Whilst I'm all for variety, and such, I suspect some of the translations may not be as appealing. For instance, which would you choose:

      Grilled poulet with lemon sauce
      Battered coq stuffed with herbs

      Red Rooster would also have a PR nightmare in the making...

    Venison is absolutely delicious. Also, fish doesn't have a "food" name either. So what?

      Well, fish does fall under 'seafood'.

        You just failed your own 'poultry' test...

          Not so. Poultry are living animals. Seafood is meat.

            Dead or alive it is a non-specific superset term that you so dearly wanted to avoid.
            Worse, I am responding to this troll article and comments which probably indirectly increases your salary and bonus...

              He didn't want to avoid superset terms, he wanted to avoid superset terms that are also referring to alive animals only ("poultry").
              Get your head out of your arse and stop sighing passive-aggressively.

            Really? All seafood is meat?
            Even Seaweed?


              If that is your most insightful comment you can put to this discussion, then it is you, sir that fails.
              Given the point of the article was stupidity in language, I get the suspicion you are a timely example of it rather than a observer of it.
              Skip on back to your knitting blog, or wherever it is you came from.

                Let's no got over board and start throwing around sweeping generalizations around

            Poultry doesn't just mean living animals. It just means fowl that are raised for their meat or eggs. Once dead they would still be called poultry.

        But you wanted a specific term for a meat coming from a specific animal. Seafood isn't it. Maybe the next time you get bored you can write a followup article on coming up with an alternate food name for fish.

        Seafood is even less specific than "red meat", since it includes fish, shellfish and things like squid and octopus.

    Given the French nature of all other meat words, you it would be right to go with something like "poulet", or to anglicise the word, perhaps "pullet" or "polay"

    Still, I'm going with "chicomeat".

      I also like the idea of calling it "everything" (y'know, because of what it tastes like)

    Since when was venison "rubbish" meat? Clearly you know nothing about food.

      You may be right there: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/03/how-to-cook-and-eat-a-placenta/

    pigs are called ‘pork’

    But sometimes, pigs are called "bacon" or "ham".

    Face it, there's plenty of stupidity in English. There's no fixing it now.

      Isn't the difference there that all bacon and ham IS pork but not all pork is bacon or ham? ;)

    I believe this goes a long way back and is a function of the English languages development. Basically there was a time when the ‘upper class’ was comprised of people with French speaking backgrounds. As these upper class people spent more time with the food as an end product, rather than with the animals themselves, the French names for these animals came to represent the meat we garner from them. French for sheep is moutons for instance, and porc for pig.
    Poulet is French for Chicken by the way.

    Last edited 24/04/13 1:11 pm

      this is correct,

      reason why we dont have a name for chicken is because it wasnt typically eaten by the upper class during that period, they would have eaten better tasting birds like quail

        .... so why isn't their a food name for quail? :)

          because no-one needs to refer to it other than in a food context. You could ask, why doesn't quail have a *non* food name?


      I'm reading a fascinating book at the moment called The Story of English by Philip Gooden, which mentions this very thing.

    'Beef' and 'pork' are both variations from the latin (via old french), so following that logic chicken meat could go by 'pullus' or something similar. But that doesn't have much of a ring to it. We could just call it 'Scooby', after the most famous chicken of all.

    Well there's spatchcock...

    Also, emu is not poultry, emu is game. And amazing.

    We could call it Marty, after Back to the Future.

    "What are ya? CHICKEN?"

      And I thought Marty, had his hand up an Emu's bum! :0

      Emu certainly was game!

      Last edited 27/04/13 11:41 pm

    Whoa, mutton is "rubbish"?? It's delicious!
    And although I've only ever had venison once, cooked in a hangi, it was the most delicious serving of meat I have EVER had. Ever.

    Kangraroo doesn't have a Meat name?

      There was an attempt a number of years ago to call it "australus". Since we're still calling it "kangaroo", I guess it didn't catch on.


      Last edited 24/04/13 2:07 pm

      Ask the french what they call it, the food words have come to English from Norman French. The animals are called by the old Anglo-Saxon names as those are the people who reared them. The Normans who ate them called them by the animals Norman French names.

      It's called "Pal"

    ...S words ‘fryers’, ‘broilers’, and ‘roasters’ — but these are just cooking methods that relate to the size of the bird at hand...

    Actually a Broiler is a breed of chicken (reference); commonly used in Australia for meat chicken production.

    "Broiling" on the other hand is a method of cooking.

    I might be splitting hairs (...feathers?) here, but accuracy never hurt anyone :)

      Actually, it appears to be both a chicken breed AND a chicken size: http://www.thekitchn.com/broiler-fryer-and-roasters-wha-47323 English, eh?

    I think we should call it Chuna, pron: tuna.

      I think we should use chicken and tuna interchangeably

      Chicken = Land-tuna.
      Tuna = Sea-chicken.

    Most of the other specific food words are french loan words so perhaps as hads been mentioned prior Poulet, is the word you are looking for.

    Call them Crazy legs??

    And then you can tell if you want the chicken roasted, fried etc...

    What about Kangaroo, Emu and Crocodile? We don't have any other names for them?

      I always just assumed it's because Australians call a spade a spade and don't really flinch at a chunk of cow on their dinner plate. Which also kinda negates the need for me for a chicken food name, but I'm enjoying the debate. :)

      Skippy, Big Bird and Better enjoy this because I nearly died getting it for you.

    I like palindromes, so here are some random made-up words: yoy, trort, hooganagooh, clolc, wappaw, ootoo, cocadoodacoc (hmmm...)

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