Consequences of Industrial agriculture on poultry
There are many negative consequences of our industrial agriculture system. The poultry industry relies on monocultures of monotypic birds which push the other breeds into a downward spiral of lower numbers, lower meat and egg production, inbreeding, and finally extinction. Even those that are produced are harder to find.
The poultry industry is made up of large global corporations. These corporations are seeking maximum profitability, to return wealth to their shareholders. They do not care about externalities such as biodiversity or true sustainability. In 2000 ninety-five percent of all poultry in the world come from five egg laying chicken breeders, five broiler chicken breeders, and four turkey breeding companies (Greger). Since the publication of that statistic, several of those companies have since merged or bought out one another.
The industrial agriculture model is based on monoculture, production of one uniform type of plant or animal. Industrial poultry farms only include one type of bird; turkey farms raise turkeys, duck farms – ducks, chicken farms – chickens. These intense, species specific, farms raise millions of birds per year of that one kind. According to the book Bird Flu – A Virus of our own hatching, it is the fault of these mega monocultures that bird flu even exists (Greger).
ultures on chicken farms are so intensely filled with these birds that there is no wonder there are disease problems on these farms; there is no genetic diversity within a flock. In nature there is genetic diversity so that when a disease hits the birds are diverse enough that some are affected and others are not because they are genetically immune
The poultry raised on industrial poultry farms are monotypic, all exact replicas of one another. One pedigreed cockerel, a male chicken, has the reproductive capacity to sire two million chickens in its life as a breeder on a poultry breeding farm. The entire chicken genome was published in 2004, which informed us that commercial chickens have lost ninety percent of their alleles compared to native and non-commercial hybrids. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians states, “as genetic improvement falls into the hands of fewer companies and the trend towards intense multiplication of a limited range of genotypes develops, there is mounting concern that large populations may have increasingly uniform vulnerability to particular pathogens” (Greger).
Because other breeds of poultry have been bred in lower numbers and without production characteristics as a focus, many of today’s heritage chicken breeds have lower production than they did in the past. Highly efficient meat producing breeds are now much smaller and slower growing breeds than they were even just twenty years ago. Cornish Rock Cross industrial hybrid meat chickens reach five pounds in six weeks; where as their parent breeds Dark Cornish chicken breed or the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken breed would take about four months to reach the same weight (American). The Mottled Houdan originated in France as a meat producing breed of chickens; today Mottled Houdans in the United States are extremely light weight and would not be used for their initially intended purpose.
Surviving breeds are inbred
Poultry breeds are going extinct at an alarming rate and many that are surviving are very rare. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, one hundred ninety livestock breeds have gone extinct between 1985 and 2000, and between 1900 and 2000 1,000 farm animal breeds have gone extinct which is about one out of six of the world’s cattle and poultry varieties (United). The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists nineteen chicken breeds, six duck breeds, six goose breeds, and five turkey breeds as critically endangered meaning that fewer than five hundred breeding birds are in the United States, with five or fewer primary breeding flocks of fifty birds or more and are globally endangered (American). We are about to lose these genetic resources if poultry breeders do not step up to the plate and breed them once again.
Many poultry breeds, even if they are not yet extinct are very hard to find. A poultry breeder looking for stock to breed to conserve them have great challenges ahead to even find the stock they need to start a breeding program. “The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy discovered the existence of one and possibly two flocks of Lamona chickens in 2005. The owners of each of these flocks request to remain anonymous as yet; neither being prepared to offer any stock at this time” (American).
American Poultry Association. American Standard of Perfection. Mendon, MA: American Poultry Association, Inc., 1998. Print.
Greger, Michael. Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching. Herndon, VA: Lantern Books, 2006. Print.
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Conservation Priority List Ed. Jennifer Kendall. American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2009. .