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In the United States and many nations around the globe, virtually all chickens, turkeys, and eggs come from such hybridized birds—including those labeled natural, organic, and free-range or bearing animal welfare certifications.
“Agribusiness has hidden the cruelty and public health risks of hybrid poultry genetics more effectively than the tobacco industry hid the health risks of smoking” explains Farm Forward’s Founder, Dr. Aaron Gross. “Only with COVID-19 and the realization that industrial chicken farms are a hotbed for viruses with pandemic potential, have our gazes begun to turn to poultry genetics.”
As a result of modern hybrid breeding techniques chickens and turkeys are chronically sick and immunocompromised, suffering from unnecessary and painful problems with skeletal development, heart and lung function,1 obesity,2 and more. Making a bad situation worse, the factory farm systems raising these genetically unhealthy birds require the use of drugs that further aggravate a cascade of problems for human health, including antibiotic resistance and the creation of new viruses with pandemic potential.
No gene splicing is required to produce these birds. Instead, they are genetically engineered through the intensification of an age-old technique: mating two breeds of birds together to produce a third bird with even more desirable characteristics than its parents. The difference with modern hybrid poultry is that instead of mixing together the genetics of two healthy pure breeds like farmers of the past, factory farmers mix together 10-20 different lines of sometimes freakish birds carrying genetic markers identified with the latest scientific techniques.3 These modern poultry breeding techniques not only ensure that today’s chickens grow fast and are obese, it has made them an entirely new kind of animal.
“The result,” Gross concludes, “is that with the possible exception of laboratory mice, the chickens on Americans’ plates are almost certainly the most genetically modified animals on the planet.”
What can we do? It’s simple: the time has come to end big chicken.
Want to better understand hybrid poultry? Check out Understanding Modern Poultry Breeding.
J.C. McKay, N.F. Barton, A.N.M. Koerhuis, and J. McAdam (2000). The Challenge of Genetic Change in the Broiler Chicken. BSAS Occasional Publication: 1-7.
Y. Wang et al. (2009). Modern Organic and Broiler Chickens Sold for Human Consumption Provide More Energy from Fat Than Protein. Public Health Nutrition 13(3).
Frank Reese Jr., personal communication, June 28, 2012.