Meat & Livestock News

Auburn University’s Latest Study: A Game-Changer in Poultry Farming Economics

Indoors chicken farm, chicken feeding

TUCKER, GA. — Picture this: a team of researchers at Auburn University, backed by the US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) and with a financial nudge from Koch Foods, dive deep into the world of broiler chickens.

They’re led by Jessica Starkey, an Associate Professor with a keen eye for poultry science. Their mission? To unravel how something as seemingly simple as the temperature in the early stages of egg incubation can have a big impact on the economics of poultry farming.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what they found. It turns out that the temperature at which these broiler-hatching eggs are incubated is more than just a detail – it’s a critical factor that can sway the scales of economic gain or loss.

Before this study, the industry was somewhat in the dark about how these temperature tweaks in the early incubation stage could affect the muscle development of these chicks, their growth after hatching, and even the efficiency of how they convert feed into flesh.

Here’s the scoop on their discoveries:

  • First off, the temperature during those early days in the incubator didn’t mess with the survival of the embryos, nor did it play favourites with the gender of the chicks.
  • But here’s where it gets interesting: those eggs kept at a cooler 36.1°C hatched into slightly heavier chicks than those kept at a toastier 38.6°C – the latter were about 10% lighter.
  • Fast forward to day 32, and those chicks from the cooler incubators weren’t keeping up in weight compared to their counterparts from the control group, which enjoyed a comfy 37.1°C. However, the chicks from the warmer incubators were neck and neck with the control group in terms of growth.
  • The plot thickens when we look at the meat. The cooler incubation temperature seemed to take a toll on the weight of the chicken’s breast, wing, thigh, and drum, with a notable 6% drop in breast meat yield. But when the eggs were incubated at warmer temperatures, it was mostly the wings and drums that felt the pinch, not so much the breasts or thighs.

Now, let’s talk money. The Auburn team crunched the numbers and figured that incubating eggs at a slightly cooler 36.4°C could mean each bird weighs about 25 grams less.

If you’re selling breast meat at $0.438 per gram, that’s a potential loss of $7.1 million a year for a big poultry operation or a whopping $854.7 million across the US broiler industry. That’s no chicken feed!

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Well, it’s a bit of a wake-up call for the poultry industry. It’s not just about keeping the eggs warm; it’s about keeping them at just the right temperature.

Get it right, and you’re on your way to healthier chickens and healthier profits. Get it wrong, and it’s a costly lesson in the delicate art of chicken farming.