Definition of Heritage Breeds

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by rtroxel, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. rtroxel

    rtroxel Chillin' With My Peeps

    355
    5
    111
    Nov 26, 2010
    Northwest Indiana
    According to the Heritage Poultry Conservancy and its website, http://www.heritagepoultry.org/ , this is the definition of a heritage breed, an heirloom breed and even an "old-fashioned" breed.

    1. APA Standard Breed
    Heritage Chicken must be from parent and grandparent stock of breeds recognized by the APA prior to the mid-20th century; whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations; and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed. Heritage Chicken must be produced and sired by an APA Standard breed. Heritage eggs must be laid by an APA Standard breed.
    2. Naturally mating.
    Heritage Chicken must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating. Chickens marketed as “heritage” must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.
    3. Long productive outdoor lifespan.
    Heritage Chicken must have the genetic ability to live a long, vigorous life and thrive in the rigors of pasture-based, outdoor production systems. Breeding hens should be productive for 5-7 years and roosters for 3-5 years.
    4. Slow growth rate.
    Heritage Chicken must have a moderate to slow rate of growth, reaching appropriate market weight for the breed in no less than 14 weeks. This gives the chicken time to develop strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.


    In my opinion, this definition is somewhat contradictory and needs some revision. I believe it is also the definition that is generally being used to describe all "heritage breed" threads on BYC and all over the internet, etc. which is why I believe we need to really examine it. I completely agree with the first three points, but when I get to the fourth point, I disagree on several points.

    We make the statement that the breed must be APA standard. Great. I completely agree. Breeds like Marans, Orlorffs, etc. are not old-fashioned in the USA and are definitely not heritage if they haven't been supported enough to become standardized since the inception of the APA. They would be heritage in France and Russia, respectively, I hope. But the problem is point #4. Nowhere in the Standard does it say that we breed for slow growth rate. In fact, the Standard says basically the opposite. Every breed that is a good egg producer is labeled as such and every breed that is labeled a good table bird is promoted as such. There is even a special section in the front of all modern standards that explains how to choose one's birds based on the body quality and body condition of those birds. There are two pictures describing a good carcass and poor one. Certainly a standard-bred bird is not and never has been one that has "a slow growth rate."

    Secondly, the fourth point even contradicts itself in saying first a slow growth rate and then a moderate or slow one. What is purpose of breeding something inefficiently? If a person had a truck that got 12 mpg and could go from 0 to 60 in 9 seconds and one that got 20 mpg and could go from 0 to 60 in 6 seconds I can tell you which one I'd recommend him to drive...Similarly, there is no need to require inefficiency in our chickens. We can all figure out which ones are the most efficient within a normal bound. Obviously, very few people plan to breed standard Rocks that mature to 8 pounds in 8 weeks. In fact, while not impossible, it is highly unlikely it could even be done by a fancier hatching 100-300 chicks per year. But if a person were to focus on breeding his birds for economic characteristics, that is no reason to say that they are not "heritage." Is there really any purpose in this point at all? I suppose there is a purpose in assuring that heritage chicken is soundly developed. But how many of you are going to breed from a bird with slipped tendons, split wings, and other developmental problems? Isn't that sufficiently covered in point #2? The obvious solution is to simply breed quality birds to quality birds and the growth rate will never become a problem.

    I am personally afraid that the inclusion of this point is only inflammatory, mostly toward commercial poultry production, and short-sighted. For some reason, many people seem to have something against commercial animal production in an economically effective way. There is very little reason that any animosity needs to be present in this definition on any level. That only serves to alienate people from our hobby. If you were to ask anyone who raises poultry commercially what he/she thinks of that point, they would almost certainly be opposed to it. Obviously, a bird that takes 14 or more weeks to raise to 6-8 pounds will convert feed at a much lower rate and, therefore, cause more waste. And just because a commercial bird grows faster, that doesn't make it inedible or inappropriate for human consumption.

    There is a simple solution. Using a different approach, the definition could say what it needs to say about structurally sound birds and healthy organs without making a comment that is inefficient, mandates wasted time and resources, and offends an industry that feeds billions of people on a daily basis worldwide. It could say something to this effect:


    4. Moderated growth rate.
    Heritage Chicken must have a rate of growth that gives the chicken time to develop strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.



    What do you think? I simply changed the same definition by removing part of it and changing the title. Nothing was added. Now, I can breed a Faverolle in 12 weeks to 6-7 pounds and do so with sound body structure, I have created a bird that is not only a more viable commercial option, but also one that is more attractive to people interested in making more money and less waste. I can even still market my bird, legitimately, as "Heritage Chicken." Are you smelling what I'm stepping in?
     
  2. punky rooster

    punky rooster Awesome

    Jul 21, 2010
    one thing about the thing against hatchery birds being heritage:
    1. APA Standard Breed
    Heritage Chicken must be from parent and grandparent stock of breeds recognized by the APA prior to the mid-20th century; whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations; and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed. Heritage Chicken must be produced and sired by an APA Standard breed. Heritage eggs must be laid by an APA Standard breed.
    Hatcheries don't follow the SOP good breeders do.
     
  3. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    16,242
    107
    336
    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    Quote:To correct you. It isn't so much the offspring, but the parents too. Hatchery parent birds are a complete mystery and in NO way live a long, productive, vigorous life out on pasture.
     
  4. rtroxel

    rtroxel Chillin' With My Peeps

    355
    5
    111
    Nov 26, 2010
    Northwest Indiana
    I'm not arguing for hatchery birds as heritage birds. I'm saying that growth rate has so little to do what a heritage breed is that most of the other points cover what point 4 says. The rest of point 4 can be said in a way that is not inflammatory [​IMG] and is much more concise and less restrictive.
     
  5. punky rooster

    punky rooster Awesome

    Jul 21, 2010
    Quote:To correct you. It isn't so much the offspring, but the parents too. Hatchery parent birds are a complete mystery and in NO way live a long, productive, vigorous life out on pasture.

    Even better point
     
  6. buffalogal

    buffalogal Chillin' With My Peeps

    757
    67
    168
    Nov 28, 2010
    Quote:To correct you. It isn't so much the offspring, but the parents too. Hatchery parent birds are a complete mystery and in NO way live a long, productive, vigorous life out on pasture.

    Is it your intent to suggest the only REAL "Heritage Birds" are the ones from breeders and fanciers raise who their birds in 100% free range conditions and also show? If a breeder raises his or her birds 100% inside or in pens, how is that any different than a hatchery?
    On the other thread it was pointed out that: "Remember the APA says that to be a breed a given flock of birds only has to breed true 50% of the time for 3 generations... " Which pretty much sums up every hatchery bird I've ever seen.

    Rather than "Hatchery Birds", I think the exclusion by implication with the slow growth rate requirement is actually meant for the broiler crossbreeds like the CornishXRock. Actually, they would already be out with the blurb about "traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed."


    Interesting point rtroxel.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2011
  7. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    16,242
    107
    336
    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    I don't think a heritage breed owner should need to show at all, they just need birds that follow to the SOP, and that the experienced audience can also agree very well that the birds follow the SOP.

    But yes, more to the point, I do think that one should clarify a little more on a bird simply growing to healthily fill out its needs, but I still think slow growing fits better. There are a lot of people who don't think that fast growing or production-type growing bird isn't actually correct when looking at the health and internal maturity/space of a bird. I know some breeds do grow a little faster than full maturity at 1-3 years, but they still are considered "slow."
     
  8. Jake Levi

    Jake Levi Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,266
    11
    173
    Jan 14, 2011
    Harrisville, MI
    In keeping with this I am looking for some Large Fowl Heritage RIRs with RCs, chicks available late april, would like to grow them for preservation and to show, and to get some 4H kids started with them, they and Wyandottes were what we had when I was a kid.

    Jake Levi
    Luzerne, MI

    We are all in this together,
    The Best Things in Life arenot Things
     
  9. buffalogal

    buffalogal Chillin' With My Peeps

    757
    67
    168
    Nov 28, 2010
    Quote:What then about the breeder who keeps birds that are never allowed to have a "vigorous life out on pasture", but are instead, raised indoors or in enclosed pens for their entire life? Still "heritage"? While the show breeder's birds would certainly *look* more correct, how would that breeders' birds be any different from a commercial hatchery, especially if the APA only requires they breed true 50% of the time?
     
  10. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    16,242
    107
    336
    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    If they are kept indoors their entire life or most of their life I do not consider that heritage, and it also is listed specifically on the ALBC's list to have a successful, long, vigorous life outdoors. The whole point is that your bird is able to live normally, as one would have over 50 years ago. It would have run almost freely around the yard, provided both meat and eggs, and also had the ability to produce over the age of 4 years old. If they are kept in a well sized run with the ability to forage on something, I'd consider it heritage. People do have the right to make sure their birds are safe from predators. . . I just don't think that keeping them in buildings is the way to go.

    The APA only requires a 50% pass, but hatcheries make about 20% [​IMG] The difference in hatchery birds vs show quality and/or heritage, besides looks, is that they (non-hatchery) last longer, their behavior is retained from the original breeds' description and origin, they actually have the genetic and instinctual ability to set, hatch, and raise chicks, they have a fuller body that allows more organ space, and they are raised over generations in a more natural environment that allows them to become hardier and more able to survive in a natural environment, whether it be a large run or completely free ranged/pastured.

    Take for example, Oriental Gamefowl bred and raised in a hatchery-like environment have their gamey behavior bred out, their broodiness bred out, their weight bred down to a production type, so their bodies focus solely on laying eggs, and their tolerance to heat settles down to a simple tolerance to the confinement they are raised and bred in. In the end, you get a bird that is just like every other production layer created by hatcheries or the egg industry. Set it loose in a more natural environment, especially one that Gamefowl are used to, and it is likely to not survive at all.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by