Dramatic changes have occurred in poultry genetics and breeding since the conclusion of World War II. The dual purpose chicken is no longer vogue, having been replaced in meat production by the hybrid broiler and in commercial egg production by the hybrid layer. Concomitant to the genetic development of specialized chickens for meat and egg production has been the emergence of large commercial breeding organizations whose main focus is the production of superior germ plasm.
It is of more than academic interest to realize that the permanent changes in poultry meat and egg stocks have resulted from a combination of the application of genetic theory and the organizational structure of breeding establishments. The latter enhanced the rate of genetic change by allowing for large population sizes, intensive selection pressure, and the evaluation of many crosses in different environments.
All of the genetic changes which have occurred, however, have not been desirable. There is a conundrum which involves different needs during the life cycle of the chicken and the mating designs needed to produce the final hybrid meat or the egg producer used in commercial production. Stated a different way, the desirable characteristics of the chicken used in the production of meat and eggs for human consumption may be quite different from that needed in the parental populations. Broiler production requires a fast-growing lean chicken that is an efficient converter of feedstuffs. Yet, the large parents of such a product are undesirable because of their low reproduction and their inefficiency in the utilization of feedstuffs.
Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume 5. Plenary sessions, , 679-680, 1982
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