Friday, April 3, 2015

The Chicken of Tomorrow

Chicken wasn't always the way it is today.  


Before World War II, chickens were primarily farmed for egg production, the third biggest agricultural crop (following beef and dairy).  The egg laying chicken only became meat when a scrawny, old, depleted chicken could no longer economically produce eggs.

Poultrymen of the 1940's helped the War effort when there was a shortage of red meat.  Poultry was one of the few meats that escaped rationing during World War II.  Farmers were pressed to move chickens from mere egg producers to a source of both eggs and meat.  Breeds of chicken specialized for meat production would be required.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific grocery chain had used predatory competitive methods to become the largest grocer in the USA.  They were subsequently convicted on a criminal basis for their predation on local, family owned grocery stores.  A&P needed to rebuild its reputation.  As the largest buyer of spent chicken, A&P also had a vested interest in growing that chicken market.  These two historic facts combined to cause A&P to provide $10,000 in prize money for the person who developed the very best meat bird.  The overall winner after local, state, regional, and finally national contests would get $5,000 with the balance shared by all the other winners along the way.

There was a lot of local pride in the flocks of farmers.  Everybody was sure they were the best.  The USDA, 4H clubs, State Agriculture Extension officers, and others got involved.  Local contests were held in most counties, states, and regions.

The winners were able to show huge advancements in the size and quality of the bird produced.  The genetics of the winning white rock bird soon become the de facto standard throughout the US and eventually, around the world.

Next, the wiz kids of science in the brand new pharmaceutical industry introduced B12 additives in the chicken feed, then antibiotics.  That story comes tomorrow.

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