US Scientists study African chickens resistant to climate change

Scientists at the University of 

Delaware are mapping the 
genes of these “naked neck” 
chickens. The lack of feathers 
on the birds’ necks help them 
keep cool. Researchers want to breed 
such traits into industrially farmed 
poultry to make flocks more 
resistant to climate change. 
(University of Delaware)

3 May 2014. Los Ageles Times. University of Delaware researcher Carl Schmidt and his colleagues are trying to map the genetic code of bizarre-looking African naked-neck chickens to see if their ability to withstand heat can be bred into flocks of U.S. broilers.

When a team of researchers from the University of Delaware traveled to Africa two years ago to search for exemplary chickens, they weren’t looking for plump thighs or delicious eggs. They were seeking out birds that could survive a hotter planet.

The researchers were in the vanguard of food scientists, backed by millions of dollars from the federal government, racing to develop new breeds of farm animals that can stand up to the hazards of global warming.

Some climate-change activists dismiss the work, which is just getting

Graduate students at the University of Delaware work
on parsing out the genes in chickens from Africa that
help them withstand intense heat waves. Researchers
hope to breed those traits into U.S. flocks to help them
withstand the environmental stresses brought
on by climate change.
(Evan Halper / Los Angeles Times)

underway, as a distraction and a concession to industrial-style agriculture, which they blame for compounding the world’s environmental problems. Those leading the experiments, however, say new, heat-resistant breeds of farm animals will be essential to feeding the world as climate change takes hold.

The experiments reflect a continued shift in the federal government’s response to climate change. With efforts to reduce carbon emissions lagging behind what most scientists believe will be needed to forestall further warming, the government increasingly is looking for ways to protect key industries from the impact.

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