Differences between commercial meat birds and the alternative

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by call ducks, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. call ducks

    call ducks silver appleyard addict

    Mar 4, 2009
    waterville , canada
    Today we have access to many types of meat birds while they are often classified as into two groups “Cornish Crosses” and Free range alternative meat birds. Let’s get some background on each different type of meat bird

    We can classify all meat birds under two categories these being commercial birds, and alternative birds.

    The Differences

    Commercial broilers are the ones you can pick up from most feed stores and hatcheries often times labeled “meat kings” or ”Cornish Cross” - however the commercial farmers typical call them broiler birds as the parent flocks can change ( Broiler birds are not the same). They grow around ~40 days in a commercial environment and 60 day’s in a free range environment (Give or take 10 days).

    Alternative Broilers ( You can’t officially call them broilers in some jurisdictions) are often called by their specific name as some are certified for the French Label Rouge program. These have primarily been developed in Europe - with a handful of North American bred varieties. They develop in a different way as such they take longer to grow between 80 and 100 days. Typical coloured with a white skin.

    What’s the same
    Both the categories are a result of a four way cross - with most four way crosses being terminal (not all are terminal however). A large portion of both varieties are owned by multi-nantional companies that strictly control the genetics. In both categories there are many parent lines when bred together the result in slower growing, mid-range growth, and high growth broiler birds.

    Differences in how the skeleton grows
    There are differences in how the two types of broilers develop and spend the calories they consume. While a conventional broiler spends most of its daily energy on producing meat and gaining weight from day one alternative broilers spend their energy laying a framework to build muscle, and gain weight on first.

    While the rapid growth of commercial broilers is ideal for confined spaces of broiler grow out barns free ranging poultry represents a new set of challenges. While many people successfully free range commercial broilers and it can be done the results are still a feed hungry bird.

    The growth of alternative meat birds is different while the commercial broiler birds spend just enough energy on there skeletal system to sustain themselves alternative meat birds appear to do very little for the first few weeks - They are like toddlers that have rapid and frequent growth periods. These birds spend time developing both their skeletal structure to support themselves and meat. Why does it matter - well in short it does not overly matter. Although if you ask me and and some of the smartest poultrymen & poutrywomen in North America it does. Why does it matter to me you may ask? Do you know the old saying “you have to build the barn before you can paint it”. Well the same principle can be applied with livestock you have to have a good foundation for good results. You maybe saying to yourself “Well clearly the commercial broilers have a good foundation or else they would not be popular”. Let me ask you this. You would not build a lean-to shelter and expect it to last one hundred plus years like a barn built out of solid wood would you?

    Well in this case the commercial broiler is the lean-to a quick fix for something that is needed. However the barn built out of solid wood is a design that can stand the test of time - it is a sustainable design that does not need to be rebuilt every year. This is what alternative broilers are. They are able to stand up to anything that is thrown at them (within reason of course).

    Before you say
    Before you say this is a niche market - It is more than a niche market at this time however it is not common place either. Commercial poultry farmers would consider this a niche market like commercial produce growers used consider organic produce a niche market. It is clear that the raising of these birds on a commercial scale is sustainable - and economical for farmers it has just not became common place. I know of two hatcheries in the United States within a small geographical region each shipping over a hundred thousand chicks a week. While this small compared to commercial operations, it is not a small number. This equates to roughly 11.82 million chicks per year from just the two hatcheries I know of.

    Is there a price difference? Yes there can be. This often times differs on feed costs, etc. If you buy from a feed store they also need to including the shipping costs - shipping costs depending on where you live can be as much as the chick itself.

    It is important to note that all broilers have a recommended feeding schedule results and time to butcher and finale weight will vary according based on line specifics, and the feeding regime - IE birds that have an all access pass to feed will grow faster (but also eat just out of boredom {and yes chickens need stimuli to keep them active and not bored}) than birds that are feed according to a regime developed by the breeders.

    This is a rather short post about commercial VS Alternative broilers - albeit a bit more geared to the benefits of an alternative broiler.
    1 person likes this.
  2. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Songster

    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

    I've raised both CX and Red Rangers and I have seen first hand what you are talking about concerning building the barn first. The red rangers bones were much denser than the CX. I prefer the taste of the RR, but lack the patience to raise them. I think it was because I did so many CX before doing a batch of RR. The additional 4 weeks the RR took seemed like an eternity. I am just finishing up a batch of CX that is from a strain I hadn't raised before. They claimed their muscle growth was slower the first couple of weeks allowing them to built their skeletal system to get in front of the rapid muscle growth. Their claim appears to be valid. I'm am doing a small batch, but their leg joints don't seem to be under as much pressure as I've seen in other strains.

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