Saturday, November 17, 2007

Celebrating Old Chicken Strains

At the University of Alberta, they're celebrating the 50th "birthday" for a genetic strain of broiler chicken. They saved the strain, to ensure the current (1957) version of the broiler would live on, unaltered, while the chickens sold in stores would continue to change and evolve.

It's similar to the Seeds of Diversity program, and others like it around the world, that preserve old (heritage) strains of seeds - not only to save their unique flavours (that are sometimes lost in modern strains), but as a backup in case some virulent disease should wipe out modern strains. The more strains you have a record of, the safer the food supply is.

But wow, have these chickens changed! Check this out:

Seriously, modern chickens look pretty damn freaky! It looks like it has a hormone problem or something - but, this is just an average bird from today, so big breasted, it can barely stand!

I dunno, Dave always buys the smaller breasts (when he has the choice), because he finds the smaller ones more flavorful. It makes you wonder if there's only so much "flavor" per chicken, but when they get bigger, they don't necessarily get more flavorful. No scientific basis here, just personal opinion. :)

Like some plants - roses, for instance - maybe the change is at the cost of another prized aspect. Modern roses are way more disease resistant than their ancestors - but, the scent of modern roses are faint compared to the way they used to smell. Unfortunately, we still don't know enough about genetics to ensure disease resistance AND strong scent - but maybe we will in the future! Until then, though, it's good to hold on to genetic samples of heritage farm animals and plants.

Learn more about the birthday party for these "old" chickens, here.

If you're interested in learning more about the Poultry Research Centre at U of Alberta, go here.

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