Thursday, May 22, 2014

Marvelous Chicken Productivity

Chickens, milk cows, and beef cattle are much better producers today than they were 200, 100, 50, or even 20 years ago because of selective breeding and outcross genetics that use a real axis of production to measure the pennies spent on feed and shelter against the pounds returned in milk, eggs, and meat. 

Sadly, no such axis of production exists in the world of dogs, especially not show and pet dogs. The result is that almost all pure breed dogs are much worse today than they were 100 years ago

Improved efficiency in milk production down on the farm, however, has enabled the U.S. dairy industry to produce 186 billion pounds of milk from 9.2 million cows in 2007, as compared to only 117 billion pounds of milk from 25.6 million cows in 1944. 

And what about meat chickens, aka broiler chickens? The numbers here are astounding, with birds more than twice as big, being produced in half the time, at a cost of less than half the feed per pound, and with one fifth the mortality.

YearMarket Age
–average days–
Market Weight
–pounds, liveweight–
Feed to Meat Gain
–pounds of feed to one pound of broiler, liveweight–

Right now, there are an estimated 25 billion chickens being raised around the world, making Gallus gallus domesticus the most common bird in the world.

The amazing thing is that the most common bird in the world has been almost entirely created by the hand of man. 

Though descended from both both Grey and Red Junglefowl, the modern egg and meat chicken grows so much faster, produces so many more eggs, and looks so different than its wild ancestor, than it can be thought of as an entirely different species.

And did I mention that chickens produce eggs?  True! The little state of Iowa, with a population of just 3 million people, has a chicken population of about 53 million birds producing about 14 BILLION eggs a year.

And what happens to all those commercial egg-laying hens after their second egg-laying season?  

A large number end up as dog food, as these birds are now too old to be of much value as roasting birds.


PipedreamFarm said...

The faster growth rates of modern broiler chickens while benificial for meat production are not without health consequences for the breed.

5string said...

"A large number end up as dog food, as these birds are now too old to be of much value as roasting birds."

And amazingly, the price per pound of the dog food is more than fresh people food.

You'd be doing your dog and your wallet a favor by picking up a fresh frying hen for his enjoyment.

redhorse said...

It's not all genetics with milk production. The hormone rbgh is responsible for a lot of the increase. It also decreases the useful life of a cow to 5 or 6. A grassfed cow can be productive for another 10 or 12 years. It's very sad to see some of the used up cows from a commercial milk herd. They will have huge bags, no muscle or fat on them, and the farmers make a mad dash to the butcher with them, because they go down and can't get up, and therefore can't be slaughtered.

I believe the same thing is true of chickens, they are pushed to lay so many eggs by artificial lighting, feed, hormones and breeding, that they can't keep going past the age of 2. My sister has some 8 yr old hens that are still healthy and laying jumbo sized eggs.

PipedreamFarm said...

You must be looking at some pricey kibble to exceed the $1.30 - $1.50/lb for raw whole chicken.

Stacey said...

I don't know, Patrick, I think that the dogs of today are producing MUCH more meat than dogs 100 years ago. I mean, look at how much we're getting from pitbulls alone!