A broiler is a type of chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

 raised specifically for meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

 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
Feed conversion ratio
In animal husbandry, feed conversion ratio , feed conversion rate, or feed conversion efficiency , is a measure of an animal's efficiency in converting feed mass into increased body mass....

, and low levels of activity. Broilers often reach a harvest weight of 4-5 pounds dressed in only five weeks.

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.


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)adoption of a hybrid variety of chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

 produced from a cross of male of a naturally double breasted Cornish
Cornish (chicken)
The Cornish, known as the Indian Game in its native country of Cornwall in England, United Kingdom, is a breed of chicken. Cornish chickens, as well as crosses of Cornishes, are the most-used breed in the chicken meat industry...

 strain and a female of a tall, large boned strain of white Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock (chicken)
The Plymouth Rock, often called simply Rocks or Barred Rocks , is a chicken breed that originated in the United States...

s. 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 is 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.
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
Pastured poultry
Pastured poultry is a sustainable agriculture technique that calls for the raising of laying chickens, meat chickens , and/or turkeys on pasture, as opposed to indoor confinement...

, as developed by Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin
Joel F. Salatin is an American farmer, lecturer, and author whose books include You Can Farm and Salad Bar Beef.Salatin raises livestock using holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley...

 and promoted by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association.

The term "broiler" is widely known in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 but not elsewhere in the English speaking world. The term "broiler chicken" is very widely used in Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, as it was in the former German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 and still nowadays in some eastern parts of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. 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. Additionally, they are very inactive and as a result are a poor forager, prone to predation, and are generally not suited to small free range homestead flocks.

If the litter
Poultry litter
In agriculture, poultry litter or broiler litter is a material used as bedding in poultry operations to renderthe floor more manageable. Common litter materials are wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, shredded sugar cane, straw, and other dry, absorbent, low-cost organic materials...

 in the pen is not properly managed to prevent birds from standing and resting in their feces
Feces, faeces, or fæces is a waste product from an animal's digestive tract expelled through the anus or cloaca during defecation.-Etymology:...

, painful hock burns
Hock burns
Hock burns are marks found on the upper joints of chickens and other birds raised on broiler farms. These marks are where the ammonia from the waste of other birds has burned through the skin of the leg, leaving a mark. Many meat processors now remove these marks as they discourage customers...

and foot ulcerations and blisters can occur. Pastured birds which are rotated frequently typically do not have these issues.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.