They use any reds I think and they worry more about egg production than quality. Yes, they are not true RIR's.( or should I say they are not "True to standard" for a RIR)
ETA The same I think goes for most hatchery birds.What I meant is they use any of the offspring to breed.They aren't picky as to who gets bred so if one has less color or wrong comb types...they just hatch from them anyway.Eventually they change quite a bit!
Production Reds have been bred to increase egg production, which has changed their overall appearance and characteristics. There are several threads about the differences in PRs and Rhode Island Reds - do a search and you'll find some.
"Production Red" is a meaningless term that is endlessly bandied about here. Either it's a Rhode Island Red, a New Hampshire, or some sort of cross. The people that bred the bird can tell you what it is.
Now whether it meets the APA SOP or not is another thing entirely. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but that's only a cosmetic standard not a practical one. I maintain that a Rhode Island Red that only lays 150 eggs a year and takes six months to start laying isn't a real Rhode Island Red either even if it wins every show in the country.
The birds sold as RIR these days are quite a far cry from the original, which some folks have kept alive through small breeders working hard to preserve a more heritage look to them. Most hatchery breeds have deteriorated from their Standard quite a bit. Most of the birds sold as RIR really, truly look very little like how they "should". It's kind of a shame, really.
Perhaps the term "production red" is inaccurate, but at least it serves some purpose. First, it is likely the hens will actually lay well. Second, it will be some kind of dull orang/brown/reddish color. Would I love some of the gorgeous, deep mahogany colored, brick shaped birds shown on the Heritage RIR thread? Oh yes. But if they are only capable of laying 160-180 eggs a year, as A.T. Hagan said, no thanks. It is possible that this combination of awesome look, true to type, combined with great laying, has gone extinct. It is super rare, in any case.
Here's a couple pix of my RIR from a hatchery. Not too awful bad, looks wise, but still a far cry from the standard.
A production red can refer to three things: red sexlinks, RIR/New Hampshire crosses, and non-show quality RIRs. Calling a red sexlink a PR is kind of an inappropriate name, as they are a different story. PRs are lighter, skinnier, and lay more eggs than the true heritage RIRs. Now don't get me wrong, I think the PRs are beautiful, and have three myself, and would prefer them to some of the black looking Heritage RIRs. My rooster is pretty much finished molting, so I'll try and post a pic soon.
Sorry they look so ragedy, as I said before they're going through molting. Normally he's not this skinny looking, as right now he doesn't have all of his feathers back, but you can kinda see the size difference in him and a heritage RIR.