Feds fund research to create a climate-proof chicken

BY Joshua Barajas  May 5, 2014 at 1:43 PM EDT
Carl Schmidt, associate professor at University of Delaware, leads a team of researchers that are developing new breeds of chickens that would be able to withstand conditions of climate change. Image courtesy of Carl Schmidt/University of Delaware

Carl Schmidt, associate professor at University of Delaware, leads a team of researchers that are developing new breeds of chickens that would be able to withstand conditions of climate change. Image courtesy of Carl Schmidt/University of Delaware

Researchers believe that the key to feeding a growing global population is a chicken that can take the heat.

A team of scientists from the University of Delaware, beginning in fall 2012, studied the genetic makeup of the African naked-neck chicken and whether its ability to survive heat stress and other conditions of a warmer climate could be bred into American broiler chickens.

The African naked-neck chicken. Image courtesy of Carl Schmidt/University of Delaware

The African naked-neck chicken. Image courtesy of Carl Schmidt/University of Delaware

“We are dealing with the challenge of difficult weather conditions,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Los Angeles Times. “At the same time, we have to massively increase food production,” Vilsack said, to meet the demands of larger populations.

The research, funded by a $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is part of a larger effort to breed farm animals that could cope with climate change.

Warmer temperatures, the L.A. Times explains, would make chickens and other farm animals more susceptible to disease, while producers can lose whole stocks to heat waves.