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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Bald chicken 'needs no plucking'
Feather coverage is greatly reduced on the birds, AFP
Feather coverage is greatly reduced on the birds
Scientists have bred a controversial featherless chicken which they say is faster growing.

The birds, created at the Hebrew University in Israel, will not need to be plucked, saving money in processing plants.

While the researcher behind the breed concedes that they would not be suitable for cooler countries, he says that in hot climates, the birds would fare better.


It's a normal chicken except for the fact it has no feathers

Professor Avigdor Cahaner
However, opponents of the move say that the changes do not benefit the animals, and are in fact likely to make their lives worse.

Professor Avigdor Cahaner, who led the project, told the BBC: "This is not a genetically modified chicken - it comes from a natural breed whose characteristics have been known for 50 years.

"I am just transferring that to fast growing broiler chickens. It's a normal chicken except for the fact it has no feathers."

He said that broiler chickens were fed intensively to achieve fast growth, which meant they also tended to produce a lot of body heat; and this meant that particularly in hotter countries, they "suffer tremendously".

The featherless birds would tend to be leaner, and perhaps grow faster, he said, which would improve the quality of the meat and save producers money.

Pollution claim

Removing the plucking process would also reduce pollution, he said. The process, he claimed, produced large quantities of water contaminated with feathers and fat.

However, animal welfare groups warned that feathers were important to help protect the birds from parasites - and that the featherless chickens were likely to suffer sunburn.

In addition, male chickens might not be able to mate, they argued.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Nelson
"They're specially bred rather than genetically engineered"
Katie Thear, Poultry Expert
"I think it is an absolute travesty"
See also:

04 Jun 01 | Science/Nature
18 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
04 Jun 01 | Science/Nature
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