Florida chicken house.jpg
A modern commercial broiler operation.
Conservation status Commercial
Other names Cornish-Rock
Cornish Cross
Country of origin USA,INDIA
Hybrid variety
Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus)

A broiler is a type of chicken raised specifically for meat production. Modern commercial broilers, typically known as Cornish crosses or Cornish-Rocks are specially bred for large scale, efficient meat production and grow much faster than egg or traditional dual purpose breeds. They are noted for having very fast growth rates, a high feed conversion ratio, and low levels of activity. Broilers often reach a harvest weight of 4-5 pounds dressed in only five weeks.[1]

They have white feathers and yellowish skin. This cross is also favorable for meat production because it lacks the typical "hair" which many breeds have that necessitates singeing after plucking. Both male and female broilers are slaughtered for their meat. In 2003, approximately 42 billion broilers were produced, 80% of which were produced by four companies: Aviagen, Cobb-Vantress, Hubbard Farms, and Hybro.[2]



Before the development of modern commercial meat breeds (cows, chickens, etc.) broilers consisted mostly of young male chickens (cockerels) which were culled from farm flocks. The males were slaughtered for meat and the females (pullets) were kept for egg production. Compared to today, this made chicken meat scarce and expensive compared to eggs, and chicken was a luxury meat. The development of special broiler breeds decoupled the supply of broilers from the demand for eggs. This, along with advances in nutrition and incubation that allowed broilers to be raised year-round, allowed chicken to become a low-cost meat.

Broilers are often called "Rock-Cornish," referring to the adoption of a hybrid variety of chicken produced from a cross of male of a naturally double breasted Cornish strain and a female of a tall, large boned strain of white Plymouth Rocks.[1] This first attempt at a hybrid meat breed was introduced in the 1930s and became dominant in the 1960s. The original cross was plagued by problems of low fertility, slow growth, and disease susceptibility, and modern broilers have gradually become very different from the Cornish x Rock hybrid.

Modern variants

Access to a special diet of high protein feed delivered via an automated feeding system. This is combined with artificial lighting conditions to stimulate growth and thus the desired body weight is achieved in 4 - 8 weeks, depending on the approximate body weight required by the processing plant. After processing, the poultry is delivered as fresh or frozen chicken to the stores and supermarkets.

Five day old broiler strain Cornish-Rock chicks.

Because of their efficient meat conversion, broiler chickens are also popular in small family farms in rural communities, where a family will raise a small flock of broilers.

Broilers are sometimes reared on a grass range using a method called pastured poultry, as developed by Joel Salatin and promoted by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association.[3]

The term "broiler" is widely known in North America, Australia and England but not elsewhere in the English speaking world. The term "broiler chicken" is very widely used in Pakistan and India, as it was in the former German Democratic Republic and still nowadays in some eastern parts of Germany. The term is also used in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sweden, Nigeria, Finland, Poland, Turkey and the Balkans.

Broiler health issues

Broiler chickens may develop several health issues as a result of selective breeding. Broiler chickens are bred to be very large to produce the most meat per animal. The large chickens cannot stand because their bodies grow too quickly for their legs. Therefore, they may become lame or suffer from broken legs. Broiler chickens are also prone to heart attacks for the same reason, as the heart cannot support blood flow to the large body of the chicken. Another issue with selective breeding is the larger chickens have a more aggressive appetite. The broilers are feed restricted and this leads to behavioral issues in chronically hungry birds.

Broiler chickens may often get joint disorders because their legs cannot bear the heavy bodies. A Swedish study by SLU Skara (Swedish farming university) revealed that only 1/3 of studied broiler chickens that were about to be slaughtered were healthy.[4] Additionally, it is very inactive and as a result is a poor forager, prone to predation, and is generally not suited to small free range homestead flocks.

If the litter in the pen is not properly managed to prevent birds from standing and resting in their feces, painful hock burns and foot ulcerations and blisters can occur. Pastured birds which are rotated frequently typically do not have these issues.

See also


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