Two poultry breeding companies have teamed up with several universities and the US government to evaluate new breeding technology which could ultimately lead to avian flu-resistant poultry.

The $10m (£5m) project with poultry breeders Hendrix Genetics and Cobb-Vantress aims to commercialise a new breeding technique, based on DNA selection technology.

Besides the improvements in speed, accuracy and consistency, researchers believe the new method will provide a much better understanding of health and welfare traits which are increasingly important to consumers.

Cobb bird

Running for four years, researchers will select birds with the best traits based on 60,000 genes using DNA markers.

The consortium includes poultry breeders Hendrix Genetics and Cobb-Vantress plus Wageningen University in The Netherlands and the Universities of Purdue and Wisconsin in the USA.

How does DNA selection differ to traditional methods?

Conventional

In current breeding programmes, selection is based on measuring the physical performance of individual birds, their offspring and family members. Data is then analysed and the best birds are then selected.

DNA-marker assisted

A small drop of blood from a bird will yield data for predicting the performance of the offspring. It is particularly useful for traits that are difficult to measure, such as welfare.