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9 May 2016
Slow growing broiler hybrids suitable for organic chicken meat production?

Consumers demand for organic chicken meat is greater than the supply and one reason for the low supply is the difficulty in keeping fast growing broiler hybrids in organic production environments. Broiler hybrids are traditionally bred for high growth and feed conversion during a 5-6 week rearing period with high quality protein feed in controlled indoor environments. In organic production, birds are reared during 10 weeks on diets of organic feedstuff, without synthetic amino acid supplements, and with outdoor access. Results from previous studies and experiences from commercial production indicate that rearing of fast growing broiler hybrids in organic production environments can lead to leg sufferings, heart failure and behavioral disturbances.

New slow growing broiler hybrids have recently become available for producers in Europe and two of these are evaluated in an SLU project funded by SLF (The Swedish Farmers’ Foundation for Agricultural Research) and SLU-ekoforsk. The aim of the project is to contribute with scientifically based knowledge promoting a sustainable development of organic chicken meat production. Genotype by environment interactions for traits of high importance for productivity, animal welfare and environmental load will be assessed in organic production environments. The project is divided into two sub studies, the first currently carried out at the Swedish livestock research center at Lövsta (May to July 2015), focusing on differences in protein levels and protein sources in the feed. The second sub study will be carried out at a commercial farm outside Skara from August to October 2015 and focus on outdoor access.

Preliminary results show differences between fast and slow growing hybrids in productivity, animal welfare and environmental load related traits already during the first weeks of the rearing. The final analyses will be carried out during the fall 2015 and results will be presented and published during 2016.

 Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics and Department of Animal Environment and Health, SLU

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