Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Eating the Chicken of Tomorrow Today

Over at Modern Farmer, Alexis Coe has a terrific piece entitled Today We’re Eating the Winners of the 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow Contest

The short version: In 1948, the A&P grocery store chain, the largest retailer of chickens in the U.S. at that time, sponsored a national contest to produce a better chicken.

The winning chicken would have broader-breasts, bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs, and above all, more white meat. And they would grow faster, too, so that the consumer would eventually come to depend on the bird as a reliable kitchen staple.... After several contest cycles, each of the 40 finalists submitted 720 eggs to a central hatching facility, where the chicks were raised in controlled conditions and fed a standard diet. For 12 weeks, their weight, health and appearance were closely monitored, and at the conclusion, the survivors were slaughtered and judged... Arbor Acres White Rocks’ white feathered birds beat the competition in the purebred category, but Red Cornish crosses from the Vantress Hatchery definitely outperformed them. And as it happens, those two breeds would eventually be crossed and become the Arbor Acre breed — whose genetics now dominate poultry farms worldwide.
Read the whole thing or just watch the video, below. Suffice it to say that following the rise of the "better" chicken, a lot of the "failed" slower-to-market and less-white-meat breeds simply disappeared, and so too did most small time, independent chicken producers. America was on its way, and in the fast lane, to industrial agriculture.

1 comment:

Dean Jones said...

Good read Patrick. A very good book I am just finishing up is "The Meat Racket" by Christopher Leonard dealing with the "chickenization" of our food supply especially by Tyson Inc. I never knew small poultry & pork farmers were so controlled by companies such as Tyson & Smithfield. They experimented with factory farming of cattle as well. This book is a good read for any interested in the safety of their food.