Study shows chicken size quadruples in 60 years

Watch the video above: Chickens bigger than ever

SASKATOON – A recent University of Alberta study has shown chickens today are four times bigger than they were in the 1950s.

The study, published in the Journal of Poultry Science, compared chicken strains from 1957, 1978 and a Commercial Ross 308 strain in 2005.

Professor Hank Classen works in the department of Animal Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan and said the chickens did not grow using chemicals or hormones, it’s through commercial selection.

“Its breeding bigger birds to bigger birds, simple as that,” said Classen. “The consequence is their offspring are going to be bigger, then you continue that process into the next generation.”

“They’re measuring how effectively they can digest and how efficiently they can grow, they’re measuring the health of the birds they’re measuring the feather cover.”

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This selection process does not hurt the chickens or compromise nutrition. Classen added, in a commercial setting, scientists have changed the behaviour of the birds so they no longer want to incubate their eggs; this is where scientists come in. Instead of a hen laying 12 eggs, she may lay 150 to 180.

“We’ll take those eggs and put them in an incubator that will mimic what the mom would supply and that would be temperature, humidity, turning the eggs, all the things that the mother did very well we now can do in incubators.”

Co-owner of Pine View Farms Melanie Boldt said the consumer dictates the broiler industry.

“The study cited about chickens growing larger breasts, and that’s because the consumer demand is for white meat, so they’re simply responding to what the consumer is asking for,” added Boldt.

According to the study, chicken breast size has increase 80 per cent over the past 60 years which is why chickens are much more round today.

The same process is done with other species but the reason chickens have grown so rapidly over the years is because chickens reproduce at a faster rate.

Turkeys have doubled in size during the same period of time that chickens have quadrupled.

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