analysis of studies of domestic poultry, Cook believes that chickens today have weaker immune systems than birds grown on farms 50 years ago. He and several colleagues at the UW-Madison have begun a long-term project to test this idea.
"I believe that by selecting for animals that grow rapidly, we've bred animals with weakened immune systems," he says. "Animals that respond strongly to diseases, vaccinations and other immune system stimulants eat less and lose muscle mass. Breeders can't now select for birds with strong immune systems because that means selecting for slower-growing animals, which would put them out of competition in the industry."
Feeding animals antibodies and CLA, rather than antibiotics, will allow breeders to select for animals with stronger immune systems, according to Cook. That would lead to animals better able to fight off infections on their own, thus further decreasing the need for antibiotics to treat sick birds.
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Contact: Mark Cook
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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