Image: Bresse chickens
Jean-philippe Ksiazek  /  AFP/Getty Images
Pampered poulty: Chickens from the Bresse region of France can fetch up to $20 a pound.
By Brian Tracey Associate editor
msnbc.com
updated 12/27/2007 3:52:42 PM ET 2007-12-27T20:52:42
COMMENTARY

We all know the French can be a bit persnickety when it comes to wine, but did you know they also cherish their chicken?

France, which has a proud rooster as its unofficial emblem, held a week of celebrations earlier this month to mark the 50th anniversary of the "Queen of Chickens" from the Bresse region of the country.

Sporting the national colors — red crest, white feathers and blue feet — the Bresse chicken is the only species of poultry that has an "Appelation d'Origine Controlee" classification usually associated with wine.

In the village of Louhans, farmers gathered early to set out their plucked birds, heads still attached, for a jury to pick the best of the bunch, before selling them in the afternoon then attending a sumptuous dinner — the first of four such events in the Bresse region in the run-up to Christmas.

Strict rules on rearing and breeding produce tender, white flesh greatly appreciated by gourmets and used by top chefs. The birds are raised as chickens, capons (castrated males) or poulardes (fattened females).

Production is limited to about one million birds raised by some 400 farmers in the area of eastern France near the Swiss border.

The birds spend most of their lives roaming outside. They are fed organically and are given no antibiotics.

To make the flesh more tender, the farmers then confine the birds in a coop, in semi-darkness, and feed them on flour mixed with cereals and dairy produce.

A Bresse chicken can fetch upwards of $20 a pound, vastly more than the price of prosaic poultry.

We'll stick with the two-buck cluck.

Slacker suits
No time to take your suit to a dry cleaner? Just turn on the shower to wash it at home.

Washable suits are already available, but Japanese clothing company Konaka says its "Shower Clean" line of business suits, which can be washed in a warm shower and require no ironing, is one-of-a-kind.

Konaka says the suits — made of a lightweight fabric easy to clean — will be available in February in Japan.

The firm's Web site shows how to clean them: Reverse the jacket and pants, put them on clothes hangers and douse with warm water for a few minutes to clean the inside. Repeat the process to clean the outside and drip-dry.

Konaka is targeting job-hunting college students who go through a period of job interviews as well as young businessmen living alone, company official Shigeyuki Tsuchiya said.

"They often don't have time to take their suit to a dry cleaner and it's difficult for them to iron a wool suit," he said. "Our suit can return to the original shape easily after a shower."

The suits, available for both men and women, will be priced between $260 and $492, according to the company, which has some 320 stores nationwide.

Here's our bold prediction: The men's clothes will sell better than the ladies'.

Costly lost luggage
China has warned airline passengers to be on the alert for thieves rifling through overhead bins following the theft of $230,000, the biggest in China's civil aviation history, state media said last week.

Police at airports across the country had handled more than 100 cases of theft involving about 3 million yuan ($406,000) on flights this year, the China Daily said.

"Passengers should be alert during flights if they are carrying valuables," it quoted a Guangzhou police officer as saying.

Loosened travel restrictions and a booming economy mean growing numbers of Chinese have visas and cash to travel abroad as never before.

This month, a passenger lost the nearly quarter of a million dollars after it was reportedly stolen from his bag en route from Guangzhou to Wenzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the China Daily said.

Apparently this person hadn't heard of something called traveler's checks.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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