When activists want consumers to associate certain “dirty words” with modern food production, what do you suppose is top of mind?
Genetic modification? Antibiotic resistance? Factory farming?
Nope. Try “hybrid chickens.”
That’s right. A group called Farm Forward—the organization better known for pushing a campaign to reverse so-called “ag gag” laws that punish people who conduct unauthorized videotaping on farms—has launched an attack on the concept of hybrid breeding.
“Did you know that in the United States virtually all chickens and turkeys—including many of the birds sold under labels like natural, organic, and free range—are hybridized birds that have been genetically altered to reach market weight as quickly and inexpensively as possible?”
That’s the opening salvo in Farm Forward’s campaign.
“The poultry industry has hidden the problems stemming from hybrid genetics from public view more effectively than the tobacco industry hid the health risks of smoking,” the group’s message continues.“Insiders know it’s the biggest problem in animal welfare today and a threat to public health.”
Now, to the average person who hasn’t grown up on a farm, who doesn’t have a background in agricultural economics, whose only knowledge of breeding technology as it applies to domesticated animals comes from a cursory acquaintance with dog breeding, “hybrid” isn’t necessarily a negative notion.
More to the point, for the approximately 30 million Americans who grow a garden every year, virtually every packet of seeds on sale these days is a hybrid variety. Why? Because they grow faster, larger and deliver higher yields, which is exactly what every gardener prefers.
Isn’t the process of breeding hybrid livestock aiming at the same results? That’s the question most people would ask.
But not if Farm Forward succeeds in its anti-industry campaign.
Demonizing the h-word
Here’s just a partial list of the negative ideas the group wants people to associate with the h-word:
- Hybrid birds suffer from severe welfare problems, and these unhealthy birds cause human health problems
- Hybrid birds aren’t adapted to their environment anymore
- Hybrid birds need feed supplements and antibiotics to survive
Worst of all? “The meat from hybrid birds appears to have many times more fat and a fraction of the protein compared with heritage breeds.”