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From the zoological point of view the Guinea fowl are a separate family (zool.: Numididae) within the order of Galliformes. The archetype of the modern domesticated Guinea fowl is the Helmeted Guinea fowl (zool.: Numida meleagris).

Guinea fowl are native to Africa, where they are still found in the wild today. The first successful attempts of domesticating Guinea fowl were probably made in Ancient Greece. Via Rom Guinea fowl were brought to France and quickly spread through all European countries with moderate climatic conditions. When America was discovered they also found their way to the New World. Today the world's largest producer is France with about 50 million animals per year. Italy is another important producing and exporting country.

Guinea fowl have a round body and small head. Their wings are short and the plumage is smooth and clinging. The small white dots in the otherwise black plumage remind of pearls. The German name Perlhuhn derives from this.

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Breeding of Guinea fowl

Each breeding hen lays 170 eggs per year on average. Guinea fowl are sold in two weight classes. Young fledglings born in intensive breeding are often slaughtered after only six weeks and weigh at that point about 600 g. They are seen as an alternative to partridges and are sold as one portion. The standard Guinea fowl is slaughtered at the age of 10 to 12 weeks and a weighs 1.6 kg. Fully grown Guinea fowl can easily reach a weight of 2 kg. Breeding takes place in special stalls with with a bedding of straw or chipped wood. Guinea fowl from farm breeding include animals of controlled origin from Drôme as well as those with the quality mark Label Rouge. For the breeding of animals that bear the Label Rouge, strict quality standards have to be followed. Guinea fowl can only be slaughtered, when they are fully grown. Longer breeding time, high-quality feed and a smaller amount of animals per flock explain the higher price for animals bearing the Label Rouge. The birds have a minimum age of 94 days and weigh about 1.8 kg. Furthermore they are brought up outdoors on pastures rich in herbs. This makes their meat even more aromatic. Towards the end of their breeding time Label Rouge guinea fowl are fed with corn.

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Nutritional properties of Guinea fowl

Guinea fowl contain very little fat. The meat of their legs has 2.7 percent fat, breast meat only 1.1 percent. It therefore is the domesticated poultry variety with the lowest fat content. Furthermore their proportion of unsaturated fatty acids is high and they have an extremely low cholesterol content. Guinea fowl are rich in protein of which they contain more than chicken or even beef. Their vitamin content is also worth mentioning. They contain the vitamins B1, B2 and E and have a high proportion of the minerals magnesium, calcium and iron.

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Preparation of Guinea fowl

Guinea fowl are available around the year. In Europe they are breed in France and Italy for the largest part. Their dark meat is juicy and tender. Its taste reminds of pheasant. Therefore most pheasant recipes can be used for young guinea fowl.

Tip: To prepare older guinea fowl, it is best to marinate them (best tied up) for one or two days in buttermilk.

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