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Pigeons, ducks, and geese were bred in China more than 3,000 years ago. Chickens, developed from Asian jungle fowl, were domesticated probably about the same time. In the sixteenth century, chickens were introduced into America from Europe and turkeys were introduced into Europe from America.
Although poultry eggs were artificially incubated in ancient China and Egypt, this method of hatching poultry was not used on a commercial scale until the 1870s. The modern poultry industry emerged in the late nineteenth century in Europe and America as breeders focused on improving meat and egg production. Research and technical innovations in poultry housing, feeding, and breeding have led to the rapid development of the industry since the 1930s.
Production and consumption of poultry products increased significantly during World War II when beef and pork were in limited supply. Since 1945, improved methods of storing and distributing poultry meat and eggs have helped stimulate consumption of these foods. Specialization in raising broilers has been important to the expansion of the poultry industry.
The current integrated poultry production system evolved from the many small, independent farms and companies that existed around the 1940s as hatcheries, feed mills and processing plants and then over the ensuing years integrated under a single ownership. In North America, the integration process was nearly completed by 1970.