The chicken of tomorrow

Apparently, most of the chickens that we eat today are derived from the winners of A&P’s 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow contest. They worked with the USDA to increase the growth of the poultry industry.

It was an alliance with a specific goal: The “development of superior meat-type chickens.” The winning chicken would have broader-breasts, bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs, and above all, more white meat. And they would grow faster, too, so that the consumer would eventually come to depend on the bird as a reliable kitchen staple.

So who won? Arbor Acres White Rocks’ white feathered birds beat the competition in the purebred category, but Red Cornish crosses from the Vantress Hatchery definitely outperformed them. And as it happens, those two breeds would eventually be crossed and become the Arbor Acre breed — whose genetics now dominate poultry farms worldwide.

Makes me think I should make an effort to find places that produce some of the heritage breeds.

Knowing sushi

If You Knew Sushi examines the world’s biggest seafood market, where a bluefin tuna can fetch the price of a small home. Japanese fish buyers have a finely honed craft.

“I tell you, Nicky, these Japanese guys, they take a little, thin slice from the tail, hold it to the light, look at it for a minute, then make an offer. God knows what they see.”

What the Japanese buying agent determines by his quick and practiced analysis of that sliver of tail is an indication of the tuna’s inner color, its oil content, and the presence, if any, of parasitic disease. A smooth-grained and marbled tail is a prime indication of quality. The richness of the tuna’s lipid content, its fat, can be gauged by how slippery the slice of tail feels between the fingers. Pockmarks reveal parasites. It’s a complex diagnostic method that is mastered only with years of practice. The overall form and color of the tuna are also quickly assessed at the same time. The ideal of these qualities, inner and outer—the word for this ideal is kata—is also a bit of a mystery to outsiders.

Robot arm picks up anything

A team of researchers from Cornell, University of Chicago and iRobot, have created a robot gripper that can pick up almost any small object. It uses the jamming of particulate material inside an elastic bag to hold on to things, as opposed to traditional designs modelled around the human hand.

The gripper consists of a rubber membrane around a granular material that can form around objects, then grab them when a vacuum pump is used to harden the material. The gripper was designed to allow robots to pick up various objects without a lot of computational overhead.