Friday, December 28, 2012

Heritage-Breeds vs. Meat-Breeds

Chicago News has an informative article regarding the importance of breeding, and growing old fashioned, heritage-breeds of livestock.

"Let's Talk Chicken"

I get many emails weekly, asking advice and information regarding grain-free feeding, free-ranging, disease control, nutritional values, proper livestock feeding, pest control, livestock husbandry, sustainability, and permaculture farming methods. Unfortunately, I can not reply to each and every email.  Thank goodness for our blog!

Today, I will briefly address some of the differences between commercial meat-breed chickens vs. heritage, multi-purpose chickens, behaviors and nutritional values. 

Extinction is bad for the environment, and can create a devastating ecological imbalance. We strive to work closely with ecological balance, and Rainbow Ranch Farms has a sincere interest in helping to preserve old fashioned, American farming traditions,  heritage breeds, and healing the earth.

Commercial and production "meat-chickens", are by design, a fast-growing breed, which can grow to about 10.0lbs in 10 weeks. They thrive on cheap grains, and weight-gain can be controlled and measured. 

Most meat-production breeds of chicken, do not mate naturally, and may require artificial insemination, they do not make good egg layers nor do they go broody. This could be partly due to the extensive genetic-development, deep-generational cross-breeding, or genetic alteration; where as some of the inherit, native instincts and traits, have been altered, removed, or damaged, during the process of development. 

The popular, Cornish Cross meat-bird: 
Originally the Cornish-X, was a cross-breed of two heritage breeds. One being the White Rock, the other, the White English Cornish. Over the years, these crosses have been developed into new varieties of commercial, meat-breeds, many of which are patented.

Due to the popularity of production meat-breeds, the English Cornish, originally used for the production of the Cornish-X, has become borderline extinct. There are only a few, specialty breeders, across the globe who breed and grow the White, Standard, English Cornish today, and you can get a good quality breeding trio, for appx. $2800.00- $4200.00 USD.

Some of the Benefits of Growing Cornish-X Production Breeds: 
(Commercial/Industrialized/Genetically Re-Developed & Patented Meat-Chicken Breeds)

They can grow 1.0lb each week, from time of hatch, when fed a diet comprised of corn, soy, wheat, fish-meal, flax & fillers.

They develop extra-large breasts, very quickly, on grain-feeding, making them an ideal bird, for the commercial poultry industry. 

These birds grow so fast, that it makes for a very profitable business.

On average, they can gain 1.0lb of weight for every 2.0lbs of grain-feeding. depending on feed quality, housing and environment. 

They are very cheap to grow, in fact you can buy a day old chick, grow and process them, for as low as under $1.00 per pound, in just under 6 weeks. WOW!!


Some of the Issues When Growing Cornish-X Production Breeds:

They do not produce well on a grain-free diet
They are sensitive to environmental exposure, and may require antibiotics to survive, in the outdoors
They grow so fast, that sometimes, their legs do not keep up with their body weight, and can become crippled
Their bodies grow very big, very fast, which can sometimes result in congestive heart failure
They can be grown on a free-range, however, they do not, free-range
They can be grown on a pasture, or patch of grass, however, they do not pasture, nor graze
They are poor foragers, and prefer to have their grains, and water within a short distance


Other names for commercial, industrialized, meat-breeds, may include:

Red Broilers
Black Broilers
Cornish Game Hens (regular commercial breeds of chicken, butchered at 2-3 weeks)
White Broilers
Freedom Rangers


Many people today, are developing new interest in agriculture, and many are geared toward small scale agriculture. Due to the rise in small-farm popularity, many farmers are growing the production breeds, vs. heritage breeds. 

There is very little, nutritional difference between a commercial/production breed being grown by a small scale farmer, and a large scale farmer. Primarily due to the breed being grown, and the similar grains being fed.

 It may be safer to purchase commercial, production-breeds grown by a large scale farmer, available at your local grocery store, or farmers market, since that poultry is federally  inspected, by food safety specialists, and cheaper. 

The reason why I write this, is because, those types of birds are commercial, meat-breeds, and require a very specialized care. In most cases they require vaccines, antibiotic treatment, or even medication, on a regular basis. They are not designed for the free-range, and they are not designed for full exposure to nature's elements, and when a person forces the meat, production-breeds into elements not conducive for their proper growth, it can be inhumane, and problems may occur, on a genetic level, internally, and externally, and if the grower does not know the breed well enough to know that it may require medical attention, or needs to be culled, it could stand to reason that you, as a consumer, may be consuming a not so wholesome chicken. 

For details on the proper care, for growing commercial or industrialized, meat, production breeds of chicken, consult with the following leading experts:

 Zacky Farms - Foster farms.  (Take note of Foster Farms, antibiotic and temperature controlled environment, located at bottom of page, under "Foster Farms And The Use of Antibiotics".

To learn more about the leading developers of commercial or industrialized breeds, of production, meat-chickens, consult with the world's leading experts: Aviagen

Please Don't Shoot The Messenger, Yikes. I have included several references, resources, and links, for your convenience. Please take the time to review them. 




By encouraging small-scale farmers to grow heritage-breeds, it helps to set them apart from the industrialized poultry industry. Growing heritage or old fashioned chicken breeds is beneficial to the environment, and inline with a true, small, sustainable farming operation.  The small scale farmer would be growing a healthy bird, for the dinner table, and  producing healthy eggs, which are loaded with nutritional values (depending on feed, access to fresh-air, and room to free-range). It could help in preserving old fashioned, farming traditions, and help to prevent old fashioned, heritage poultry breeds , from extinction

Some of the Benefits of Growing Heritage-Breeds:

They make excellent foragers
They thrive on the free-range
They are not vegetarians, and can help keep invasive insects out of your garden
They can be grown by extremely organic methods, to include Grain-Free
They are naturally mating
They are egg layers
They brood, their own eggs, and in many cases, the eggs they steal from neighboring nests
They are multi-purpose...
A. Egg-layers
B. Chick hatchers & brooders
C. Delicious when stewed, roasted, baked, broiled, and make for an excellent soup

Because heritage breeds take longer to grow, their body can focus on building strong muscle tone, bone density, and a healthy nervous system. They have awesome immune systems, and by allowing the bird to grow as nature intended, you get a healthier, stronger and more productive bird.

Some of the Issues When Growing Heritage-Breeds:

They take longer to grow than production meat-breeds
They are more challenging to catch
They will perch on anything, thus poop, anywhere
They may peck you, when you try to collect their clutch
They do not grow in a uniform, or predictable rate
They consume more food, to gain weight
They burn a lot of calories, meaning they must eat more
They will never, ever weigh,  7.0lbs in 7 weeks
They will not produce a double breast, (a wide breast, maybe), but not a double breast
They are very expensive to grow, in fact you can buy a day old chick, grow and process them, for as low as $6.00 per pound. If you choose to use certified organic fodder, or bedding, the price will go up, and if you choose to use a grain-free feeding the price goes up, again. It could cost as much as $10.50 per pound to produce a heritage-breed chicken, to 5.0lbs, (in as little as 7 months) on a grain-free, certified organic diet. 


Free-range poultry and eggs, from heritage-breed chickens, fed a grain-free, and certified organic diet, comprised of native vegetation, wholesome insects, and species-specific  fodder, contain... 

a. high-nutritional levels of beta-carotene
b. high-nutritional levels of cartenoids
c. appx. 10-12% less fat
d. appx. 34-36% less cholesterol
e. appx. 66-68% more Vit-A
f. appx. triple the Vit-E values
g. appx. 2.5 to 3 times more Omega 3's
when compared to commercial, production breeds, lot-fed, chicken-tractor grown, caged, or grain-fed alternatives.



Resources & References:
Grains and Mycotoxins
Poultry Science Journals
Michael Pollan
Edible Austin Magazine
Healthy Homesteading
International Center For Poultry
Jakobs Bowl
Chicago News
Ref: 1
Ref: 2
Ref: 3
Ref: 4
Ref: 5
Ref: 6
Ref: 7
Ref: 8
Ref: 9
Prof. McPherson
Eat Wild Nutritional Facts
Mother Earth News
Free-Range Eggs: Data
Meat-Bird Developers
Foster Farms
I want to hear from you! share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas. 

Blessings to you all, and a very **happy new year**


  1. Mmmm? The thought of raising my own food a little scarry.howeverthe comfort of knowing I did it and its good on so many levels makes it worth while

  2. What's the issue with feeding chickens grain? Organic to be sure, but otherwise grain has always seemed ok as far as anything my ignorant ass knows! (I used to raise bantams long time ago.)

    Just curious! Thanks.

    1. I think growing naturally is best if you can afford it. I think of how many wild oats, corn, wheat, and barley fields there are out there and I don't think there are any. So the question would be, why give them what they wouldn't forage for on their own. I met a woman who is a rancher/farmer and asked her how much she paid for feed and she laughed at me as politely as she could and asked me why would I buy feed when nature gives it to me for free? that started me on my little quest and led to me to RRF. Just a thought.

  3. Thank you for the backlink above under your nutritional credit. We are always interested to see what others are doing and why they are doing it. I enjoy meeting new people and reading their blog posts.

  4. For more information on heritage breeds, check out the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy at

  5. Does anyone know of any grain free poultry/egg farms in New England/East Coast? I would love to buy some grain free eggs and poultry meat, I understand you don't ship eggs and the postage for a chicken to get to me costs me than the chicken itself. Thanks, any response is appreciated.

  6. We recently tried raising some commercial meat birds at home. They were the kind bred for large breasts, and they grow quickly. They break their legs easily and can't stand up when fully grown. I was really uncomfortable with the entire thing. In the future we'll be raising dual-purpose or heritage breeds.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm getting tired of customers saying they only buy "pastured poultry" when referring to the cornish cross. No, they don't eat the veggies. I give them nice kale leaves and they just trample them. However, I do mix in whole wheat and cracked corn with layer pellets and their high protein broiler mix. I find they take a week or two longer to grow, but have been very happy with the quality of the meat. By far better than any grocery store bird and very little loss. Out of 25 chicks we maybe lose 1 or 2 each batch. Probably an average of 1.5 birds per batch.

  8. we purchased 25 cornish cross a few months ago, have them outside now, giving them organic feed and letting them pick through the weeds. They like the weeds as much if not more than the feed. My wife wants a hertitage meat bird and I want to raise and kill-no pet/production/eggs etc. Is there a good source for heritage meat bird chicks?

  9. we purchased 25 cornish cross a few months ago, have them outside now, giving them organic feed and letting them pick through the weeds. They like the weeds as much if not more than the feed. My wife wants a hertitage meat bird and I want to raise and kill-no pet/production/eggs etc. Is there a good source for heritage meat bird chicks?