Cornish Cross birds are a lazy bird by nature with an insatiable appetite.
They basically sit, eat, and get bigger. These are admiral traits if the only goal is to produce a bird that grows very rapidly and produces a lot of breast meat.
However, if you sit back and observe this bird for very long you realize these cleverly select traits come with a price.
Research shows that these birds can gain weight at a rate faster than their skeletal system can bear.
This shows up as lameness and even broken legs. Another trait of these birds is they suffer heart failure.
You go to tend the birds, and find one stone dead for no apparent reason. More than likely it suffered heart failure.
Because they are so selectively bred for certain traits it can lead to a compromised immune system.
They are a fragile bird that was designed for huge agri-business to stuff in a confinement barn and feed sub therapeutic antibiotics to keep them healthy.
The hatchery told me to limit feed them so as to slow the growth rate down and help curb these health issues.
I did limit their intake of feed, and to a large degree it worked. But I came to the conclusion you were basically starving them to slow them down!
They are genetically designed to have an insatiable appetite. I raise Tamworth pigs on pasture and these birds make them look polite when it comes to feeding if they have ran out of feed for any length of time…even on grass.
Which brings up another observation: Freedom Ranger chickens are a far more aggressive forager of green material then Cornish Cross.
One of the health benefits touted by pastured poultry farmers is the opportunity for the birds to graze on green grass and bugs.
It made sense to me to use a bird that gets the most out the environment in which you raise it. Cornish birds were designed as an inside bird with no thought of foraging, that burns calories!
Contrast that with birds from the Label Rouge program in France (such as Freedom Rangers) and you see some distinct differences.
- They are a healthy robust bird
- Freedom Rangers grow slower without the problems associated with Cornish Cross.
- They are much more active foragers.
- Customers in taste test when compared to the Cornish Cross prefer Freedom Ranger.
I chose Freedom Rangers because after examining the facts I felt they were better suited to my model of farming and welfare standards.
Why take a bird that was bred for big business and put it in an environment that it was never designed for?
I realize pastured poultry farmers while minimizing the problems outlined here can raise Cornish Cross birds.
But for us at Spring Hill Farms, we think there is a better way.
Until next time…