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Genetic Tampering by Aviagen/Sanderson Leads to Infertile Roosters
by & Global Price Spikes in Chicken
Friday Aug 1st, 2014 4:43 AM
The monoculture genetic breeds in U.S. factory farms like Sanderson are experiencing increased infertility rates of 2% that will result in global price spikes for chicken products. This is the result of their overdependence on the Ross breed combined with genetic tampering by Aviagen that can led to this unexpected mishap. Heritage breeds are rarely used in factory farms or protected by the government, yet the increase in heritage breed backyard chickens may prevent these genetic monoculture problems from occurring.
More reasons to avoid factory farmed chickens and either become vegan or raise your own backyard chickens with heritage breeds. Sanderson Farms corporation working with Aviagen were responsible for this genetic "mishap" by causing the Ross breed of roosters to have higher rates of infertility. Their mistake will be absorbed by consumers globally as the majority of the world's chickens are descendants of the same breed. Another lesson to depending on profit driven corporations for our protein, their mistakes come out of our pockets.

It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature, sometimes she fools us back!

Infertile roosters increase shortage in U.S. chicken supplies

Canadian hatcheries depend on U.S. imports but have been unaffected to date

Posted Jul. 21, 2014 by Ron Friesen in Livestock,

"A genetic problem in a key breed of U.S. rooster could affect Canada’s broiler chicken industry, which imports nearly all its parent breeding stock from south of the border.

The U.S. is already experiencing a shortage of breeder birds and the genetic issue could make supplies even tighter, American officials say.

If that happens, it could put Canadian broiler producers in a bind because this country has no companies of its own that supply breeding stock.

“It’s the U.S. or nothing,” said Giuseppe Caminiti, general manager of Canadian Hatching Egg Producers in Ottawa.

So far, however, Canadian broiler hatcheries report no disruption to parent breeding stock imports.

“We haven’t had any shortages in terms of our placement,” said Craig Evans, chief executive officer of Granny’s Poultry in Winnipeg. “It’s business as usual.”

Aviagen, the world’s biggest chicken breeder, discovered a genetic problem in its main breed of rooster that was causing a reduction in fertility.

The breed, Aviagen’s standard Ross male, was believed responsible for an unusual reduction in chick output when 17 per cent eggs laid by the company’s hens mated with the rooster breed failed to hatch. Normal hatching failure rates are around 15 per cent.

Ruled out

Sanderson Farms, the third-largest U.S. poultry producer and one of Aviagen’s largest customers, said it and Aviagen systematically ruled out other possible causes for a decline in fertility before determining a genetic issue was at the root of the problem.

Aviagen, owned privately by EW Group of Germany, sent a team of scientists to Sanderson last autumn to study the issue and has acknowledged that an undisclosed change it made to the breed’s genetics made the birds “very sensitive” to being overfed, said Mike Cockrell, Sanderson’s chief financial officer.

“We fed him too much. He got fat. When he got big, he did not breed as much as he was intended to,” Cockrell said about the breed of rooster. “The fertilization went way down, and our hatch has been way down.”

Aviagen has reportedly since replaced that particular breed with a new one and is mating it with the same type of hens.

The Ross is sire through its offspring to as much as 25 per cent of the chickens in the U.S. raised for slaughter. The majority of broiler parent stock in Canada is Aviagen’s Ross breed, Caminiti said.

He said it’s difficult to compare the U.S. situation with Canada’s, because American companies sometimes use a combination of other breeds, such as Cobb or Hubbard, in producing parent stock. In Canada, the same breed is used in mating males and females."

The rooster’s wake-up call

Posted Jul. 22, 2014 by Laura Rance in Opinion,

"Anyone who has lived on or near a farmyard with chickens is well aware of the rooster’s ability to trumpet the arrival of morning long before the sun peeks over the horizon.

But roosters have been delivering a wake-up call of a different sort lately — sounding the alarm over the risks inherent with the increasingly narrow gene pool used in commercial production.

The U.S. broiler industry recently discovered the Ross breed of rooster, which sires as much as 25 per cent of the U.S. broiler chicken supply, has developed a fertility problem.

After investigating why up to 17 per cent of the eggs these roosters fertilized failed to hatch, the breeder, German-based Aviagen, acknowledged an unspecified change made to its genetics boosted growth rates at the expense of fertility.

We are told the problem has since been fixed through more genetic tweaking, but this seemingly temporary genetic glitch is having costly effects.

Canada sources all of its breeding stock from the U.S. and relies solely on the Ross rooster. But it has been unaffected — at least so far.

Thanks to stability of supply management, Canadian hatcheries are able to contract for their hatching eggs up to two years in advance. The industry reports those contracts are being honoured to date. As such, it appears Canadian consumers will be spared any potential price shock.

But it’s a wake-up call nonetheless about agriculture’s tendency to put all its eggs in one genetic basket.

And it underscores the irony of the University of Alberta’s reliance on charitable donations to preserve its flock of heritage poultry breeds.

Two years ago, the flock was threatened by budget cuts, prompting the university’s Poultry Research Centre to appeal for public support under an innovative “adopt a heritage chicken” program. Individual donors — who now number 400 — pay $150 a year in exchange for receiving 24-dozen eggs over a 10-month period.

There are lots of great things we could say about how this approach supports the local food movement and offers urbanites an opportunity to connect with agriculture.

But it’s questionable whether as a society we want to rely on such methods to preserve genetic diversity. The need for such resources is not some nicety — the threat to supply from unforeseen genetic breakdowns is clearly not theoretical.

While the public’s support for this program is heartwarming, what’s needed is a long-term commitment from government."

(Hint; Neither the U.S. nor the Canadian government will commit to protecting rare heritage breeds because they are in the pocket of the agribusiness corporations (Tyson, Sanderson, etc...) who profit from their genetic monoculture monopolies. The price spike will effect consumers more than the corporations responsible for this genetic mishap.)

In some ways the chicken factory farm corporations benefit from their mistake as they will be able to simply raise the price of chicken globally. Perhaps this would be a good time for an organized chicken boycott to send them the message that their practices of genetic tampering harms the animals and the consumers. Factory farming of chickens has led to numerous daily cruelties to the birds themselves combined with other unhealthy practices such as overprescribing antibiotics for overcrowding, GMO feed, lack of sunlight and exercise. Now add to that list the dependency on a single breed of monoculture genetics that are tweaked by corporations with no safety net for errors. Reduce the rate of reproduction "accidentally" and global price spikes in chicken products are a certain outcome.

Breeding a monoculture strain of chickens and pushing heritage breeds to the sidelines only benefits the profit margins of those corporations who enforce dependency on their product. The average meat eating consumer will be forced to either adjust to their price spikes or avoid the product all together. Since it is unlikely for the entire global population to become vegan or vegetarian overnight, the only other option is for small backyard chicken farmers to increase in number and ability to breed heritage genetic strains themselves.

With clean soil and environment chickens can be raised almost anywhere. Having roosters is another matter, they can be kept indoors as pets overnight since the crow very loudly in the early morning. During the day they can go out as they are just another noise not unlike power mowers, weedwhackers, barking dogs and other regular daytime noises.

In Alberta, Canada there are heritage breeds kept as back-up in case the industrial monoculture species has another genetic meltdown;

The centre houses several breeds on Rare Breeds Canada’s endangered species list: Barred Plymouth Rock, Light Sussex, New Hampshire, White Leghorn, and Brown Leghorn, as well as two varieties from the lines of famed Ontario chicken breeder Don Shaver used to breed the original commercial chicken. They are descended from birds that arrived at the centre two decades ago. They’ve never been bred for any specific trait, are suited for both meat and egg production, and are “the same kinds of chickens that our grandparents had on the farm,” said Kulinski.

But they are not kept for nostalgic reasons.

“They’re a backup if anything happens to the industry chickens,” she said. “They have the genetic variability, so if anything happens, you can look for the genes to help the commercial breeds.”

Since modern commercial chickens are bred from just a few lines, older ones may one day be needed if, for example, a new strain of avian influenza threatened poultry production.

“There hasn’t been too much research done on heritage breeds, so we don’t know if they are resistant,” said Kulinski. “But we do know that there is a potential that they have the disease-resistant gene.”