Featherless; the future or an unsaleable concept

04-04-2007 | | |
Van Der Sluis

There are many arguments that support the commercial breeding of featherless birds, but can these arguments overcome the emotional reaction on seeing the naked bird. Is the consumer ready? (Comments 43)

A few weeks ago Professor Avigdor Cahaner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Agriculture in Rehovot, Israel gave at a congress of the World Poultry Science Association in Bangkok a presentation on his many years of researching the advantages of featherless chickens.

Breeding featherless birds – less waste, less cost
If you close your eyes and switch off your emotions and listen to what he says about breeding birds without feathers you instantly think, here is the Egg of Columbus . No feathers, no waste, less processing costs and less water use during processing. Even more interesting is that these birds do not waste costly nutrients for developing useless feathers.

In addition these birds show a higher meat yield and better meat quality (higher water holding capacity and colour). Furthermore when featherless birds are held in hot climate zones, they suffer less from heat stress, show lower mortality rates and a better health status, making the concept even more convincing.

Less skin damage
Initial fears for skin damage proved to be unfounded, since stocking density trials proved that featherless bird show less skin damages than their feathered friends.

Greater genetic potential
Under hot conditions featherless broilers can fully express their genetic potential for rapid growth and high marketing body weight. Compared to standard commercial broilers, they require fewer days to reach marketing body weight of about 2.25 kg.

This would help poultry growers in hot climate zones, even those who grow them in open houses in which during day time temperatures easily can go over 35°C.
That these birds also can grow on low protein and low energy diets without any negative effect on their growth rate makes them even more attractive.

Is the market ready for featherless birds?
But as soon you open your eyes again the attractiveness of the featherless bird is completely gone. What an ugly bird. It is right than where your emotions are switched on again and all technical en economic advantages get a different dimension.

We all know that naked birds are a freak of nature, and have nothing to do with genetic engineering / modification , and have to look at them the same way we do at feathered birds.
The question however is: are we able to do that? And if so would the consumer understand it and allow us to make use of this bird commercially. Is it an issue for the industry or is it a solution for the poultry growers in the hot and poor regions of the globe?
Maybe we should give the bird a chance, and may be we should have a closer look at it so we may make use of this bird type in other regions of the world too where climate controlled houses may offer an excellent environment for these birds? Maybe this is the bird of the future?
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