Breeding for efficiency in the broiler chicken: a review

Craig W. Tallentire*, Ilkka Leinonen, Ilias Kyriazakis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Artificial selection of broiler chickens for commercial objectives has been employed at an unprecedented magnitude over the recent decades. Consequently, the number of days, total feed and in turn energy, required to raise a broiler to slaughter weight, have decreased dramatically. Feed provision is the poultry industry’s biggest environmental hotspot; hence, understanding the interactions between the birds’ genetic change and their energy use efficiency forms the necessary starting point for quantifying and predicting and thereby mitigating the future environmental impact of the poultry sector. This review assesses the consequences of artificial selection on the following traits: digestive efficiency, body composition and utilisation of metabolisable energy for growth and metabolic activity. The main findings were (1) the digestive system has been subjected to much physical change due to selection in the recent decades, but this has not led to any apparent change in digestion efficiency. (2) Both the energy intake per day and the metabolic heat production rate have increased in the recent decades whilst (3) the efficiency of utilising energy for growth has also increased; this is due to an increased growth rate, so that broilers reach slaughter weight more quickly and therefore need to allocate less energy overall to metabolic processes, with the exception of growth. (4) There may have been a reduction in the tendency to waste feed through spillage and carry out energetically expensive behaviors. There is a discrepancy in the literature with regards to the influence of selection on body composition and its contribution to feed efficiency. In this review, two scenarios are demonstrated, whereby body composition either has or has not altered via artificial selection. Understanding the effects of artificial selection on the traits that relate to the feed efficiency of the broilers will contribute towards the reduction of the environmental impacts that arise from such systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number66
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Broiler
  • Digestive efficiency
  • Energy use efficiency
  • Genetic change
  • Genotype
  • Metabolic heat production


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