A close up of a free range hen.
Food - Drink
The Chicken Of Tomorrow Contest Changed The Poultry Industry Forever
World War II greatly increased the demand for chicken in the U.S., but when the war ended, poultry leaders needed to produce quality meat to stay relevant. So, in 1948, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (aka "A&P") teamed up with the USDA and Cooperative Extension to sponsor a call for innovations in genetic engineering: the "Chicken of Tomorrow" contest.
Poultry farmers around the country were challenged to strategically breed their birds into a superior meat-type chicken for a prize of about $125,000 in today’s money. Judging criteria included edible meat yield, economic production, how quickly the chickens were able to gain weight and on how much feed, uniformity of size, skin coloration, and fat distribution.
After a series of state and regional contests in 1946 and 1947, the national contest of 40 finalists occurred in 1948. Brothers Charles and Kenneth Vantress’ hybrid flock won the highest score in the contest by crossing Red Cornish males with New Hampshire Red females, and since then, supermarket chickens have never been the same.
The “Chicken of Tomorrow” contest literally created new species of birds, revolutionizing the poultry industry at large on a fundamental scale. The competition’s effects can still be felt today, like reduced poultry flock mortality rates, increased average weight of chickens with less feed, and the steady increase of chicken availability in the U.S.