Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When is it time to say 'enough' with meat production?

One final post mortem find, and the end to my keeping of straight meat hybrids...

On both sides of the breastbone of one of the meat hybrid girls I found an area of green discoloration which had also affected the bone itself. This was deep mid-centre of the breast in the tender core muscle that lies against bone. The dead area appeared symmetrical, about 5cm long and 2.5cm wide. In between the bone was dark and eaten right through, connecting both areas of necrosis.

I saw no tumours or true lesions, and no sign of an injury or wound, just necrotic tissue. This perplexed me very much until I found references to something called Deep Pectoral Myopathy. I looked at various sites including www.worldpoultry.net (http://www.worldpoultry.net/diseases/deep-pectoral-myopathy-d95.html) and others. I believe this is what the poor girl had.

Apparently, due to intense selection for breast meat, areas of deep breast muscle may not receive sufficient blood supply, particularly during wing-flapping. Afterward the dead muscle tissue can turn green. Complications such as gangrene are also possible (explaining the eaten-away bone; or to my mind the bone itself may have lost blood supply in the same manner as the muscle, thereby producing bone necrosis).

While it's reassuring to know I didn't cause this issue as such, it's a pretty distasteful find. I can't imagine what pain this bird must have felt when flapping her wings. Meanwhile selection for enhanced meat characteristics goes on, with GM chickens not too far away.

We're told that unless we continue to increase food production, our food systems will be unable to provide for the world's population in the near future. It's hard for me to imagine how the meat bird could possibly be asked to do more for humanity in this regard.


Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...

I am getting ready to order meat chicks, (I live in FL, didn't want to process till it was under 90 degrees). I am at such odds if I should get a meat hybrid, any advice, if you had to do it again would you try another breed?

Erica Bandanna said...

Hi, that's a great question...

Basically if I could get Freedom Rangers here I'd have done that... Freedom Rangers are much more capable of living a happy life and even laying a few eggs for the next generation.

Unfortunately all we have here in Australia are the extreme heavyweights that are designed for a short life... Remember though, the health problems I've posted about are mostly due to the fact that I've kept them long past their designed use-by age.

If you're just raising them for economical meat, they make good meat if they're on clean fresh grass and get their share of exercise.

However would I use them as meat birds again? No, probably not. I'd go back to crossing a heritage breed to the layers. But I'd have to go through a lot of biosecurity to get non-MG carrying chicks, so that's not something I want to try just yet. :-)

Hopefully the chicks of these poor heavy ladies will live longer happier lives, and produce more chicks that are closer to the dual purpose ideal.


Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...

I have Rhode Island Reds...well they we're sold to me as such 3 are for sure but 1 is almost a buff color (golden comet looking) and the other 2 look more like a red cross,I have a black sex link roo that is a HUGE bird, but friendly to me.I wonder if I got in incubator and hatched out eggs from the hens if I would get a decent table bird? Any incubator recomendations?

Erica Bandanna said...

If the buff color one has a black tail and hackle (neck), she may even be a New Hampshire.

As for the roo, is he very heavy? He might be part plymouth rock. Some plymouth rocks are really heavy birds and make good table breeders, but ones used to make sex-link layer crosses may be a thinner eggier strain. I've got layer cockerels on grass at the moment, but I wouldn't choose them as a meat bird generally. (Still, I feel it's better than culling them at hatch.)

It all depends on what you're used to and what you feel is worth the trouble of processing.

Another way to do it would be to find a heavier rooster like a cornish (Indian game) or malay game to put over the hens. If you do get a cornish, try to get a leggy one so he can do the job. :-)

For incubators, I'm afraid I'm not a good person to ask -- I've had two Hovabators recently that have failed. My first incubator was a Hovabator and it lasted for years. Maybe I'm just unlucky or maybe some of the parts aren't as good as they used to be? Who knows? At any rate, I've recently bought a hexagonal plastic type incubator and will see how that goes...

Good luck with it, and let me know how you go with the rooster decision -- another way to do it would be to get a couple of cornish hens, hatch eggs (they'll sit really well and could be your broodies instead of an incubator) and use the crossbred offspring as table bird breeders.

Best wishes,