Thanks, USDA! Coming soon: Laying hens that won’t try to kill each other
Time for a new Meatrix?: Lest we forget that the Department of Agriculture's role is to help out the food industry by any means possible, a team of scientists led by USDA Agricultural Research Service biologist Heng-wei Cheng and William M. Muir of Purdue University has "developed a line of laying hens that display far less aggression than their commercial counterparts, while maintaining industry-standard egg production." Translation: Just as many eggs but far fewer dead birds, even without the usual beak-trimming. Fun fact: This is what the industry considers "success" — the kinder, gentler line had just a 20% mortality rate, compared to 54% for the control line and 89% for the commercial line. And another one: to date breeders have singlemindedly concentrated on increasing egg production, even as death "due to aggression and cannibalism among the birds with untrimmed beaks has also increased about 10-fold." (USDA Agricultural Research Service; hat tip @obamafoodorama) Wow. Guess those Type A superstar egg layers don't like being crammed on top of each other in cages too small to stretch their wings or turn around. But never fear, rather than move toward more humane conditions, we'll just breed more docile birds … who may or may not have hidden vulnerabilities to say, disease. Another giant step for mankind on our amazingly stupid quest to turn animals into vegetables. Literally.
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