genetically altered meat birds


12 Years
Jan 17, 2008
McDavid Florida
For dinner: Genetically altered 'super chicken'
Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Associated Press Writer – Thu Sep 18, 4:07 pm ETWASHINGTON – Super Chicken strutted a step closer to the dinner table Thursday. The government said it will start considering proposals to sell genetically engineered animals as food, a move that could lead to faster-growing fish, cattle that can resist mad cow disease or perhaps heart-healthier eggs laid by a new breed of chickens.

The rules will also apply to drugs and other medical materials from genetically engineered animals, a field with explosive potential.

U.S. supermarkets currently sell no meat from genetically engineered animals. But a Boston-area company called Aqua Bounty Technologies hopes to win approval next year for its faster-growing salmon and make the fish available by 2011. "It tastes just like any other farm-raised salmon," said vice chairman Elliot Entis, who has sampled it.

Reaction from consumer groups was mixed. They welcomed the government's decision to regulate genetically altered animals, but they cautioned that crucial details remain to be spelled out. For example, the Food and Drug Administration does not plan to require that all genetically engineered meat, poultry and fish be labeled as such. It would be labeled only if there was a change in the final product, such as low-cholesterol filet mignon.

"They are talking about pigs that are going to have mouse genes in them, and this is not going to be labeled?" said Jean Halloran, director of food policy for Consumers Union. "We are close to speechless on this." Consumers Union publishes Consumer Reports magazine.


12 Years
Jan 17, 2008
McDavid Florida
The Cornish Cross:
What is wrong with this picture?!
The Cornish Cross is the most commonly used meat hybrid. Not only is it the foundation of the broiler industry—most pastured poultry producers also base their broiler operations on this “generic chicken” hybrid.

many homesteaders and would-be small producers are interested in an option for a meat chicken without the flaws of the Cornish Cross. I hope to have more information in the future. In the meantime, try online searches for “Freedom Rangers,” “Label Rouge,” and “Corndel.”

I stopped raising Cornish Cross chickens for several years because of their many weaknesses and flaws, known only too well by anyone who has worked with them. I returned to raising “barnyard chickens”—the old standard dual-purpose breeds—to put broilers on the table and give to family and friends. But my wife and I missed those plump roasters you can produce with the Cornish Cross but not, in my experience, with the standard breeds (without caponizing, at any rate), which are simply too tough at a dressed weight of 5 to 7 pounds. So last year, when I learned that Tim Shell was producing Cornish Cross chicks from parent stock on pasture, I decided to try again. When I called Tim, he confirmed that he and others who have been using his chicks have found them to be hardier and more robust than the ever-deteriorating equivalents from the large commercial hatcheries. I ordered a batch of 60.

All was well through the brooder phase—just a single loss—most impressive in comparison with past batches of Cornish Cross. I moved them onto pasture at about four weeks, in a netted area along the lines of Andy Lee’s “day ranging model.” They showed the usual Cornish lethargy about foraging; but weight gain was as always impressive, especially in comparison with a group of standard chicks (New Hampshire Reds) hatched by natural mothers in my main flock.

Then in June we had a spike of hot, humid weather. When I went out one afternoon to check on the birds, I found a number of Cornish—now right at broiler stage—either dead or seriously distressed with heat exhaustion. (I lost 22 of them over the next day or so.) Despite the fact they had been on that pasture more than two weeks, drinking from a float-operated waterer right outside their shade shelter, they sat on their butts inside the shelter and died rather than walk ten feet for a drink of water!

I turned 180 degrees from the sight of scattered bodies and looked at my young standard chickens—the same age to the day— in a separate netted pasture. They were bright and active, scooting about in the hot afternoon like water bugs. Whenever they felt the need for a drink, they would cross the entire area to the waterer.

Turning back to the appalling sight of dead and dying birds, my shocked mind wailed: “What is wrong with this picture?!”

We in the pastured poultry movement have turned our rhetorical guns on the Tyson’s and the Frank Perdue’s of the broiler industry. We have blasted the waste, the pollution, the lack of sustainability, the inhumanity, and the contamination of both our groundwater and our food supply that flow from a debased production system. Striving for a model which both protects natural and agricultural resources and offers our customers poultry fit to eat, we have rejected all that—all, that is, except the very heart of the industry’s flawed system: the Cornish Cross chicken.

The Cornish Cross’s greatest virtue is also its greatest vice: its phenomenal rate of growth. That growth is constantly outstripping all its bodily systems—its internal organs and nervous system as well as its skeletal structure. The inevitable results include not only the well-known leg problems and tendency to heart failure—the digestive system clearly lags behind as well. Look at the droppings: They always contain a fair amount of undigested feed—indeed, sometimes look like nothing more than a wet feed mash. Whatever the statistics about conversion of feed to flesh seem to imply, clearly there is a great deal of waste and inefficiency here. A standard chicken’s droppings, in contrast, are usually firm, gray or greenish with a white coating, and show no trace of undigested feed.

The Cornish Cross—like the huge supermarket strawberry whose growth has been forced by over-fertilization and irrigation—is lower in flavor than a bird that has had a more natural growth curve. Of course, to folks whose only experience of chicken has been the supermarket version—or worse yet, Mega McNuggets—pastured poultry has been a revelation: “Man, chicken was never like this!” But I would be happy to put one of my “barnyard chickens” (slaughtered at about 12 weeks) up against any pastured Cornish broiler in the land in a taste test: They unquestionably have more flavor. And, if flavor is a measure of nutritional value—as I believe in a natural, unprocessed food it is—then again we should be asking, “What is wrong with this picture?”

I may be accused of waxing “mystical” here: But I believe that when we eat another living thing, plant or animal, we are eating not only its physical nutrients but its vitality as well. We have quite rightly condemned the broiler industry for producing chickens all of whom are sick, propped up by antibiotics, growth hormones, and other industrial voodoo. And yet we continue to offer the same bird—raised without those contaminants and in a far more sanitary manner, to be sure—but weak and low in vitality, propped up by high management inputs.

Let me emphasize as strongly as I can: These observations are not intended as a criticism of all those good folks who are working so hard to make pastured poultry a viable alternative. I know that the market has come to expect and demand that broad, plump Cornish breast. I know that the economic pressures on pastured growers are fierce; and that most feel they must have that seven or eight week grow-out in order to stay in business. However, I believe that the pastured poultry movement has matured to the point that we should be setting as a goal the production of an even better product. We should start by finding a viable alternative to the Cornish Cross.

In the long run, of course, the solution is to breed a better bird. And since no corporate or governmental agency is doing any breeding research relevant to pastured poultry needs, we are going to have to do that job ourselves. We should all start learning about the genetics of breeding. Some of us can contribute by making experimental crosses of our own; or working with one of the standard breeds that were the foundation of the broiler industry before the Cornish Cross, selecting for traits that will maximize both vitality and production on pasture. Perhaps APPPA could put together a working group and/or sponsor a conference to explore options in breeding a better pastured bird.

The expanded foraging range may be the key factor in the sustainable production of an improved broiler. I regret that, due to the mixed nature of my own flock, I cannot give accurate feed-conversion comparisons. Years of experience has convinced me, however, that—when standard chickens have a large enough pastured area in which to roam—their per-pound slaughter weight has a lower feed cost than the Cornish, even with the longer grow-out factored in.

In the short term, there are a couple of things that might be useful to try. I urge producers who have been working exclusively with Cornish Cross to raise a few of the standard breeds for broilers as well. (The White and Barred Rock, Delaware, New Hampshire, Wyandottes and others, as well as crosses among them, have at various times been important in broiler production.) See if you don’t agree that these birds “work with you” in a way which is encouraging, in contrast to the fragility of the Cornish. Put some on your own table and see if you too find the flavor superior. Provide some to your more long-term and/or discriminating customers and ask whether they prefer the flavor. Certainly there is now a large enough universe of “pastured poultry palates” to ensure that there are many with the discrimination to recognize poultry that is even better.

keep Andy Lee’s warning in mind: That the wing-walker makes sure of the new hand-hold before letting go the old! Certainly those who have worked so hard putting into place a model which works for them should not abandon any element of the system—including its foundation, the Cornish Cross—without due care, experiment, and thought. In the long run, however, we must adopt the goal of producing a better bird. Let Perdue and Tyson have the Cornish Cross—we can do much better than that!


11 Years
Apr 21, 2008
North Central Florida
oh great
....I'll keep an eye on this post. Imagine. Has science gone to far? I believe so. Like a new toy, genetics.
What is the out come for this alteration of tissue that we will be feeding our children, grandchildren, heck, ourselves!
Personally I feel that with all this genetic work needs to be explored in how to prevent cancer, chronic illness' and forensics.
Thanks for the article, I would have missed it other wise.


In the Brooder
11 Years
Aug 2, 2008
North Dakota

I am impressed that you have taken the time to discuss this with the rest of us. I had a cornish cross and she just died one day. I know she was over weight but she was only six months old. She was also dumb as a post and didn't care about anything but eating. I am glad you are willing to research this and experiment. I don't have the area or the smarts to do all that.

Keep chuggin along, I'll be rootin for you.



11 Years
Jul 25, 2008
Adirondack Foothills, NY

I could hear America the Beautiful playing in the background when I was reading your piece. You speak the truth. Conservation of heirloom species has been a driving force for many homesteads and organizations since humans started trying to build a better breed. Hogs and chickens that grow quick to be huge. Corn that is genetically engineered to grow it's own pesticide. Just plain hybrids moving heirloom species to the brink of extinction. The fear is that when an heirloom is lost - we have lost an ability to stay self-sustaining. Kudos to you for stating the problem so suscinctly (sp?). Thank you.


11 Years
Jun 15, 2008
Nice post Paduanchook. But, keep in mind that the Cornish X is NOT an genetically altered organism. It was created through a selection process from millions of chickens as well as millions of Dollars and decades of selective breeding, for their production abilities. It was developed to be raised in an intense production facility , not on pasture. It serves it's purpose well. Then too, consider the fact that our own species populaion is exploding and when you just add a little water to the best producing land we get a crop of houses. This takes away more and more acreage from pastured poultry as land becomes too expensive to do so.(try $200,000 +per acre if you can find the acre without CC&Rs) Also, in the arrid West, where I live, we get 10.5 inches of rain per year from late Nov. to mid May, so by April all you have is brown vegetation untill mid to late Dec.. One would have to irrigate the pastures to have any resemblance of green grass. We are in direct competition with the cities for drinking water, so that water is too expensive for irrigation of pasture. Double croping poultry with other grazing animals?... research has shown that chicken manure greatly increases the naturally found Clostridium botulinum in the soil and the grases and forages. It is not as insideous to ruminants but quite deadly to some species such as the horse. It first causes watery or moist feces then neurologic symtems, then death in quick order. If you live in the part of the country with enough rain to support a pasture without irrigation and inexpensive enough land, then pastured chickens may be an viable endeaver. Just not in my part of the world. Cost of transportation of the processed chicken to the arrid West from your back yard is also way too costly and most people would just find that your chicken too expensive to purchase. I wish you all the luck in the world to develop a chicken that will provide a product that the market demands and pay the asking price, and you with your needs and produce a profit for you.


12 Years
Mar 15, 2007
Washington State
I think you're preaching to the choir in this forum. Please site a reference to your posts, though, since it could be copyrighted material.

Humans have 'genetically modified' all domensticated species through selective breeding for thousands of years. The animals we use for food little resemble their wild counterparts (if they even still exist). So, I've always struggled to define for myself where the line between selective breeding (inbreeding, linebreeding, outcrossing, etc) and doing it in a testube should be drawn. Is it really that different?


Free Ranging
14 Years
Feb 14, 2008
This world is not my home.
Genetic engineering is the alteration of genetic material by direct intervention in genetic processes with the purpose of producing new substances or improving functions of existing organisms.

I don't think selective breeding is quite in the realm of genetic modification by gene splicing, as is the most common genetic modification being referred to of late. We are all genetically modified through breeding, what scientists are doing now is a little more in depth and manipulative than this. They are actually designing plants and animals to spec by gene splicing, not just choosing desirable traits from years of breeding and selecting from those progeny.

When you use the genetic material of another species to improve a completely different species, these are results that cannot be produced by the genetic modification of selective breeding.

Like comparing apples and oranges....which may not be much of a difference when science gets done with our foods!​


11 Years
Aug 2, 2008
South Central KY
Greyfields, genetic modification allows all kinds of things that could never occur with breeding. Spider silk genes in milk goats, bio-luminous green rabbits, strawberries with fish genes, to name just a few. There's absolutely no way to know what these combinations may produce in the way of health or environmental hazards. There have been severe allergic reactions to genetically modified foods, in people who were not allergic to the naturally produced item.

The people making money from it assure us it's safe, but genes from genetically modified crops have already been found to have crossed over into other plant species. Nobody really has any way to predict what the long term consequences will be.

Pollen from BT corn kills Monarch butterflies, and who knows what else it might do? BT has been used as needed in organic gardening for a long time, but it was never a part of the plant. So now the target pests are becoming resistant because of the overuse of BT, and organic growers are losing a valuable tool, and Monarch butterfly populations have been impacted.

There's also resistance to labeling GM foods. We're told we don't have the right to choose, because if the foods were labeled, we might choose not to buy it, and the producers of this stuff would lose money. So their profit takes precedence over our right to decide what foods we choose to eat, as far as the FDA is concerned.

I'm not wild about "extreme breeding", but at least it stays within species, or at least close relatives. No mating a fish to a strawberry.

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