Japanese Quail. Japanese quail is used for the production of eggs and meat throughout the world. Imports into the United States were made in the 1950s, but these birds are thought to have been raised in captivity in eastern Asia for as long as domestic chickens. The stock imported into North America soon led to the development of several color mutations and strains selected for meat type or egg production. The body weight of imported Japanese quail was about 100 g, but the meat strains have been increased by genetic selection to a range of 200 to 400 g or more. The rapid reproduction of Japanese quail (fertile eggs are often obtained at 6 weeks of age; incubation requires 17 days) makes this species popular for egg and meat production and for use as an experimental bird by laboratories. Except for the small chick size, which requires special feeding and watering equipment, they can be raised much like chickens. These quail are often raised to maturity in chicken starting batteries, which have ample headroom for adults.

The meat of Japanese quail is prized for table use, and many are marketed to upscale restaurants in North America. The breast muscle of this quail is darker than that of a chicken or pheasant, but the breast meat is less likely to be dry in texture when cooked. The number of Japanese quail raised for food is unknown, but certainly several million are grown annually in Asia and North America. Processed birds are sold whole bodied or partially boneless for $1.50 to $2.50 per bird.

The eggs of Japanese quail are widely sold for food. This quail produces an egg that is 8 to 10% of its body weight in size. In contrast, a chicken egg is 3 to 4% of the hen's body weight. When the quail is raised on typical poultry diets, its eggs taste like chicken eggs. The shell membranes of the eggs are quite tough, making them difficult to open for fresh consumption. Eggs are often hard cooked and eaten fresh or pickled. The small size makes the eggs readily, absorb the flavor of pickle solutions and they make attractive hors d'oeuvres.

Bobwhite Quail. Bobwhite quail are native to North and Central America. The quail are 9.5 to 10.5 in long and weigh about 6 to 7 oz, although larger birds are probably used commercially in that quail respond rapidly to weight selection. Male and female quail differ in plumage. Males have a white stripe that extends from the beak past the eye to the neck. The females have buff-colored chins, upper throats and eye stripes. This species reaches sexual maturity at about 16 weeks. The eggs hatch after 23 to 24 days incubation. They are often grown in batteries or wire floor pens to prevent disease. Birds to be sold for hunting are grown in flight pens, but meat birds can be grown entirely in confinement. Like Japanese quail, bobwhite are sold as a specialty poultry item, but they are much less popular due to their higher cost (unprocessed young mature birds typically sell for $4 each). Eggs of this species are sometimes used for food, although the eggs are smaller than Japanese quail eggs and are more expensive to produce because of the bird's larger body size and later sexual maturity.

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