Move over, turkey; make room for Chester

BRAZIL - Instead of turkey for the holidays, many Brazilians are opting for Chester, a pumped-up chicken that costs less than turkey and has more meat than a standard chicken.
calendar icon 29 December 2006
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Lia Marcia Fragoso, 29, a maid who lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, isn't eating turkey over the holidays. Like many Brazilians, she opted for Chester instead.

Chester is a pumped-up chicken, the result of a genetic selection project by biologists at Brazil's second-largest food processor, Perdigao. The bird costs less than turkey and has more meat than a standard chicken, helping it win two-thirds of Brazil's poultry sales during the year-end holiday season.

"I love Chester," said Fragoso, who earns 600 reais ($279) a month and paid 21 reais for a 7.7-pound Chester. "I always get it for holiday dinners because the meat is more tender; the flavor is great, and it's a lot cheaper than turkey."

About 90 percent of Chester sales occur during the Christmas season and almost all in Brazil, the most populous Catholic country. The bird is often cooked in a pineapple sauce and accompanied by farofa, a manioc flour dish.

Chester sales are on a record pace this year, up 5 percent from five million last year, said Ricardo Menezes, Perdigao's institutional relations director. For the first time, sales in Brazil's impoverished northeast are exceeding the national average.

"Our biggest surprise this year was this jump," Menezes, 55, said from Sao Paulo, where the company is based. "It's a sign people who still can't afford turkey are able to buy something more special."

People in the northeast are the poorest in Brazil, earning an average of 307 reais a month. That compares with 642 reais in the southeast, where Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are located, according to figures from the government statistics agency.

Compared with Chester, turkey costs a third more per kilogram, takes longer to cook and produces more leftovers, which families lacking a refrigerator have no place to store safely.

Source: Bloomberg News via Miami Herald
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