The Forest King
7th August, 2008
It was bred to aid the rural poor, but one bird is also helping break industrialised farming’s stranglehold on India. Andrew Wasley meets the remarkable Giriraja
To the casual passer-by, the sleepy ambience of Bangalore’s University of Agricultural Sciences seems an unlikely place for a revolution. But pioneering academics from the university’s Department of Poultry Science have placed themselves at the centre of India’s growing resistance to intensive farming and corporate control of the food chain.
Scientists at the institution have developed a unique strain of poultry they claim offers hope to the country’s heavily impoverished rural communities, and directly challenges those advocating industrial livestock production, which has swept across the sub-continent in recent years.
Bred to require little paid-for feed or medication, the Giriraja – or Forest King – chicken is based on an ancient breed of south-Indian fowls and is highly adapted to free-range husbandry.
A scavenger bird, sturdy and naturally resistant to many diseases, the Giriraja does not demand sophisticated or modernised rearing practices. Fully grown, it weighs 3- 3.5kg, as opposed to the 1.3-1.5 kg of other varieties, and it also produces a high yield of eggs. Thus in addition to providing an essential source of protein from its meat, it offers an income...
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