Is the key to better chicken a smaller chicken?

Genetic selection and industrial farming has created big, unhealthy, less tasty chickens. Could a smaller bird be key?

Industrial farming has created some big chickens. A century ago, a broiler chicken (i.e., a chicken raised for meat) was ~2.5 pounds, per Bloomberg.

Is the key to better chicken a smaller chicken?


  • Broilers grow to ~6.5+ pounds in just 7 weeks
  • Their breasts are so large they have difficulty standing

This isn’t good for the chicken, obviously, but it’s not great for those who eat them either. The meat can contain white strips of fat and take on a hard, unappealing texture.

The solution could be a smaller, slower-growing bird

Most of these issues are derived from selectively breeding chickens with heavier body weights, according to the animal welfare nonprofit Global Animal Partnership (GAP).

GAP studied 7.5k+ broiler chickens from 16 genetic strains over 2 years and found that the strains that grew the fastest were, overall, the least healthy.

To get a happier, better-tasting bird, some farmers say it’d be better to breed birds based not on their size, but their:

  • Health
  • Immune systems
  • Strong legs

Right now, 2 companies — Aviagen Group and Tyson Foods subsidiary Cobb-Vantress — control 90%+ of the market’s chicken genetics.

But demand for animal welfare and better-tasting chicken is up, despite costing as much as ~$6.50/pound more.

New Jersey-based D’Artagnan Inc. told Bloomberg demand for its Brune Landaise chickens has jumped 28% since last year.

BTW: No-chicken chicken is hot right now, too. While conventional meat sales are still far greater than alternatives, plant-based tenders and nuggets sales climbed 29% from August 2020 to August 2021.

Topics: Agriculture Food

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