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commonly known as cutworms (Noctuidæ), species that for the most part live in the ground and destroy young plants, such as garden vegetables. The only insects of this order specifically identified were a few army worms (Leucania unipuncta) found in one stomach. Orthoptera, represented by grasshoppers and some crickets, were eaten in every month and are evidently the favorite food of meadow larks. The average for the year is 26.08 per cent, or more than onefourth of the food, and for each of the three months of August, September, and October they constitute more than one-half of the total diet. They form a good percentage of the food in every month, and in March, the month of least consumption, they still amount to nearly 5 per cent, or more than all the grains except corn. They were found in 778 stomachs, or nearly 53 per cent of the whole number, and several stomachs contained no other food.

A few spiders, myriapods, snails, and an occasional lizard make up the remainder of the animal food, 4.31 per cent.


The vegetable food of the meadow lark consists principally of fruit and seeds, including grains. It amounts to 25.78 per cent, or not quite so much as grasshoppers alone. Of the fruit, 13 species of berries were identified by their seeds, and of these 2 are or may be domestic. They were blackberries or raspberries found in 13 stomachs and strawberries in 1. All the rest are wild fruits useless to man. Corn is the principal grain and amounts to 9.07 per cent, nearly twice as much as all the other grains together. The average for oats is 2.81 per cent, for wheat 1.54, and for all other grains except corn 0.28 per cent. The month of greatest consumption of oats is October, with 7.99 per cent; for wheat December is at the head, with 4.53 per cent, and January nearly the same. Considering the small amount of grain eaten by individual birds, it is evident that to do much damage meadow larks must visit the fields in immense numbers. Clover seed was found in 14 stomachs, but only one or two seeds in each. In considering the damage done to grain by the meadow lark it would be well to bear in mind that the average monthly destruction of grasshoppers is more than double that of all the grains put together. Weed seed amounts to 7.97 per cent of the food and is eaten to some extent in every month, but mostly in the colder months. While it amounts to over 20 per cent of the food in November, December, and February, it falls a little short of 8 per cent in January. This is perhaps accounted for by the fact that most of the stomachs collected in that month were taken in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, where insects are accessible all winter. February is the month of maximum consumption, with 24.38

per cent, and March shows 11.77 per cent, after which but little of this item is eaten till November. A few miscellaneous items of vegetation and some rubbish make up the rest of the vegetable food, 3.49 per cent.


In a résumé of the food of the meadow lark one is impressed with the fact that more than five-sixths of the animal food is contained under the three items of beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. Ants, so often eaten by ground-feeding birds, do not appear to appeal to the meadow lark, while caterpillars and grasshoppers are apparently eaten whenever found. In the matter of vegetable food nc such special preference is shown, though corn and weed seeds are evidently the favorites. Corn being taken only in the late fall and winter months, is probably mostly waste grain, while the other grains are eaten so sparingly as to indicate that they are not preferred food, so far at least as the eastern species is concerned, but the western form takes the other grains, especially oats, much more freely. In the stomachs taken in California oats begin to appear in reasonable quantities (11.57 per cent) in September and increase to a maximum of 53.14 per cent in January. This grain is probably taken from the newly sown fields both before and after germination. The quantity drops very suddenly in the months after January and scarcely appears at all in spring and summer. When the birds are numerous it is quite conceivable that they may do considerable damage to grainfields if over half of their daily food consists of oats. The record, however, is not very reliable, as only seven stomachs were taken in California in January, and a greater number might give a different result. In view of the destruction of caterpillars and grasshoppers by the meadow lark, it behooves the farmer to be cautious in classing the bird as a nuisance because it damages grain to some extent. It may well be questioned if the insects eaten by the bird might not, if left to live out their natural lives, do much more damage to the grain than do the birds. It is difficult, if not impossible, to strike a balance between products damaged and insects and vegetable pests destroyed, but in estimating the economic value of the meadow lark it is significant that the total of grain in the meadow lark's diet is only 12.72 per cent of the whole, while noxious insects and weed seeds amount to 64.06 per cent.1

1 An investigation of the meadow lark's food is now being carried on in California by Mr. Harold C. Bryant, of the California State Fish and Game Commission. In a report upon the contents of 54 stomachs Mr. Bryant has drawn conclusions practically agreeing with those given above. Much more material than has hitherto been examined is needed to settle the question satisfactorily.




Food Research Laboratory, Bureau of Chemistry


Our grandmothers tell us of the time when the chore boy, wielding the farm ax, decapitated the chickens that had been hatched on the home farm and fed and cared for by the women of the family to be utilized for the feeding of the farm people. Our mothers tell us of the days when the family supply of fresh produce was purchased from the farmer, who brought butter, eggs, poultry, and fresh vegetables into the city from his near-by farm. But now we see the chickens that we are to eat on either the Atlantic or Pacific coast roaming the cornfields of Kansas and Iowa or the wheat fields of Minnesota or the Dakotas, or clustering around the mountain cottages in Tennessee and Kentucky; and instead of the rumble of the farm wagon bringing them to the family, we hear the patient, continuous chug-chug of the long freight train as it winds over the prairie and climbs the mountains on its way to the hungry millions who live far from the great producing section of that almost ubiquitous bird-the common barnyard fowl.

Formerly chickens were killed to-day and eaten to-morrow, because decay could not be checked for any length of time. Then, as the farms were pushed away from the edges of the growing cities, crushed ice was used to preserve the dressed birds until they could reach the consumer, a matter of a week, perhaps. Plate IX shows a barrel of ice-packed poultry, chickens and ice layer by layer, and a big lump of ice on top. The soaking of the birds in the melted ice, the dirty heads and feet, and the gradual dissolving out of the soluble parts of the flesh caused a loss in eating quality and induced decay.

The people increased in the cities faster, however, than the chickens multiplied on the near-by farms. The hauls soon became too long for farm wagons, and then the railway was called into service. Each year for 20 years or more the railroads have been carrying to eastern and western cities dressed poultry from a wider and wider radius. Texas turkeys and Oklahoma chickens are sent to New York and San Francisco, and, such are the wonders of the modern methods of handling perishable foodstuffs, they usually reach these distant centers in better condition than did the ice-packed chickens years ago

after traveling only a hundred miles or so. In these days of food shortage and enforced conservation of foodstuffs it is well to know something of the means by which distant sources of production are made available to the nation, and such delicate commodities as dressed poultry delivered in good order to a consumer living a thousand miles or more from the place where the chickens were raised and killed.


Good handling of dressed poultry necessitates facilities which can not be maintained by the individual farmer. Dressed poultry is now a business by itself, and a great industry has grown up to attend to this work. Therefore, when the farmer's flock has reached a marketable stage he sells it to the poultry packer, or to his agent, and the birds reach the packing house located in the producing section in great wagonloads, as shown in Plate X, or by the carload, Plate XI. The latter illustration shows the type of "live poultry car" which is now being used when the birds must be carried alive for more than a day. Both wagon and car are being unloaded at establishments of poultry dressers.

The fowls are generally hungry and thirsty and are always nervous and tired; hence they are not in condition to be killed. Many of them are thin, because comparatively few farmers feed their poultry enough to fatten them. The poultry packers have established feeding stations where from 10,000 to 30,000 birds, housed in specially constructed feeding batteries, are given clean grain mixed with buttermilk for from 7 to 14 days. The 7-day feeding causes a great improvement in the flavor and tenderness of the flesh; feeding for two weeks causes young birds to double in weight if they are vigorous and of a desirable breed for food purposes.

Photographs of feeding stations and the batteries in which the birds are kept are shown in Plate XII. Note how light and airy are the stations. They are also clean, because dirt prevents the birds from gaining weight. What progress this wholesale feeding represents is better understood when the juicy, milk-fed bird is tasted and compared with the "ranger" chicken that forages far and rear for a living and eats from the dunghill a large part of the time. The new system of crate fattening is an outgrowth of an old custom on many farms of feeding milk and clean grain for several days before killing.

After the feeding period is over the birds should be starved for 24 hours, having a plentiful supply of clean water only. This practice results in almost completely emptying the intestinal tract of foods in process of digestion and of waste products to be thrown off, and has been found to be far better than the practice of eviscerating when the bird is killed.

It may be said in passing that the viscera should not be removed until the bird is about to be cooked. A habit has developed, especially in cities, of permitting the butcher to draw the birds before sending them to the consumer. If the housewife had the drawing done in her own kitchen the bird would be in a more sanitary condition and she would frequently find evidences of unfitness for food that disappear with the removal of the entrails.


When farmers prepared the poultry for market the process of killing and picking was an individual matter. Some simply chopped off the head, dipped the carcass in water heated to the steaming point to loosen the feathers, rubbed these off, and, if the weather was cool, kept the bird out of doors or in a well-ventilated room until it was taken to market. Poultry so prepared has a greatly shortened keeping time, and the eating quality is lowered even before decay has begun, because the desirable "ripening" that does so much to improve flesh does not occur.

The undesirable methods used heretofore are many and various, but they are being so rapidly replaced by better methods that it is scarcely worth while to give space to their description. Rather let us pass at once to what are now the best procedures known for the dressing of poultry to preserve quality and prevent decay, for these methods only can be used if the bird is to travel long distances and be kept fresh for from two to three weeks before it reaches the table of the consumer.


Plate XIII shows the dressing of poultry in a house west of the Mississippi River. The output is marketed in New York City. In this house men kill the birds by cutting the jugular vein with a slender, straight-edged knife, especially constructed for the purpose. Then that portion of the brain tissue which controls the muscles holding the feathers in place is destroyed by a thrust of the same knife, and the feathers are so loosened that they are easily pulled out. The cutting of the blood vessels in the proper way permits the blood to drain out of the carcass until it is practically blood free. This is essential, if the bird is to keep well, and is a part of the process of dressing that is too often faulty. In order to accomplish this bleeding the vessels must not only be cut properly, but the bird must be held head down while removing the feathers. The scheme used in the killing room shown in Plate XIII permits this, prevents the feathers from being contaminated with blood, and enables the killer to handle

1 A Knife for Killing Poultry. Bureau of Chemistry, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1910. How to Kill and Bleed Market Poultry. Circular No. 61, Bureau of Chemistry, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1910.

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