Animal Breeding / Biodiversity / Disease Control / Emerging Diseases / Film and video / FSZ / ILRI / Poultry / USA / Zoonotic Diseases

Heritage breed chickens: America’s new ‘gateway livestock’–Plus film on chicken boom in poor countries

New 5-minute ILRI film, New approaches to chicken farming reduce poverty without adding to disease risks

‘. . . Before he got into chickens, Bradshaw had raised pork and cattle on Greenfire Farms, his plot of land 12 miles west of Tallahassee, FL. Now Bradshaw has stopped farming cattle and pork entirely, fully dedicating his operations to the heritage breed chicken business. . . .

‘The 19 breeds he raises, which range from the American Bresse to the Tolbent Polish, are sold throughout the U.S. and Canada and often come with waiting lists. Some are so rare that they verged on extinction before Bradshaw began importing them; two years ago, there were fewer than 60 Olandtz Dwarfs – a tiny, cold-hardy bird native to Sweden – left in the world. Today, Bradshaw estimates their numbers to be in the hundreds to thousands.

‘Bradshaw credits the boom in business to three factors that converged over the past several years. “There’s been the broad environmental movement trend, which has been going on for the last 50 years. Then there was the recession, which gave rise to the self-sufficiency trend, where it was destabilized enough that people started to worry about their own food supply. And then there was the local food movement.

Chickens,” Bradshaw says, “became the gateway livestock for people in America.”

‘A prime example of the success of Greenfire’s birds is the American Bresse. The Bresse, which emerged as a distinct breed 500 years ago in Eastern France and is characterized by its white feathers, blue legs, and prominent red comb, has a widespread reputation as the best-tasting chicken on the planet. France gave the bird A.O.C. status – the same given to products like comte and Champagne – and does not allow its export.

The French are nutty about them,” Bradshaw says. “They will give nuclear secrets to Iran, but god forbid you export a live Bresse chicken. . . .

‘Bradshaw likens heritage-breed enthusiasts to seed savers: both, he explains, feel a “moral obligation” to preserve and protect.“And that’s kind of what we promote,” he says. “It’s more than a hobby, it’s more than a fresh egg for breakfast. It’s really kind of a calling.”’

Read the whole article, by Rebecca Flint Marx, at Modern Farmer: Order your chicken rare: Nearly lost breeds make a comeback, 5 Jun 2013.

ILRI’s new 5-minute film, New approaches to chicken farming reduce poverty without adding to disease risks (watch above), describes a corollary ‘chicken boom’ in poor countries, with narration by ILRI veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace.

Chickens have been central to global food security for a long time. Readily available, cheap, and easy to feed and transport, chickens are kept by hundreds of millions of the world’s poor. But with few resources, the local scavenging birds these farmers raise grow slowly, produce few eggs, and are susceptible to diseases, so most poor farmers cannot use them to improve their incomes. More small-scale chicken keepers need to have access to improved production methods to take advantage of the global poultry boom. Geneticists at ILRI — the International Livestock Research Institute – are working with local partners to provide these facilities more widely. With improved breeds, these small-scale farmers will be able to serve the new high-quality meat markets. ILRI scientists are also working with partners to determine the best ways to reduce the risks of poultry diseases as well as human diseases caused by poultry.

Chicken fanciers will also like this 3-minute ILRI film: Chickens: The world’s most numerous livestock, Oct 2008:

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