Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Art of Breeding ‘Super Bastard’ Chickens

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They are not so much “bastard” chickens—chickens don’t tend to marry, with the result that extra-marital eggs are the only eggs laid—but rather the opposite of “purebred”: instead of coming from a narrow gene pool, the chickens are deliberately bred from as broad an ancestry of modern chickens as possible: chickens from across the globe brought into the flock, as it were.

Whilst most breeders are trying to selectively breed chickens with a limited gene pool, Vanmechelen is doing the opposite. Starting with the cross-breeding of two purebred chickens (Mechelse Koekoek and Bresse), subsequent generations have been further bred with chickens sourced from across the globe—they contain “cosmopolitan genetic material.” The resulting chickens with an abnormally wide gene pool are “super bastards.” These are the opposite of pedigrees and they are sweeping the board with their genetic advantages.

He explains to me how he has proved, by DNA sequencing the 18th generation, that increased genetic diversity of the chickens has led to “an increased fertility and immunity three times greater than commonly bred chickens.” It is an important find, when the selective breeding and domestication of chickens has left them vulnerable to diseases that could wipe out whole populations. Vanmechelen is in consultation with chicken breeders around the world proposing alternatives. “Every organism is looking for another organism to survive, and the same applies to man and chicken,” he says.

The entire Motherboard article by Katharine Lewis is worth reading. It begins:

“This is not a chicken, it is absolutely a piece of art.” This is the announcement with which Koen Vanmechelen, conceptual artist and chicken breeder, begins a TEDx talk. He repeats it to me word for word in the chambers of the Crypt Gallery, deep beneath London’s St Pancras Church, where we stand before a giant photographic print of a chicken.

“What makes this art?” I ask him. He points to the metal ring around the bird’s leg. “That,” he explains. “Man’s intervention.” The chicken before me is not just any chicken; it is a 17th generation, “cosmopolitan” chicken, one of the hundreds Vanmechelen has been breeding over the last 20 years in The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. It contains a combination of DNA from chickens across the globe; it is unique, and of current scientific interest.

The exhibition Darwin’s Dream, running at the Crypt Gallery till mid December, is the latest instalment of his lifelong project. Koen has brought life, art, and science together within the caverns: work includes a living jungle, giant prints, abstract sculptures, and ranks and ranks of taxidermy. It is an artistic documentation of a scientific process. . . .

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Health, Science

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