The chicken is an exemplar of efficient intensive animal agriculture and provides two valuable food products, chicken meat and eggs. Only aquaculture is better, by efficiency, but poultry is still top, by mass of animal protein produced as food in the global context. However this efficiency and intensive production comes with a number of challenges. Though the genetics of selective breeding have led to dramatic improvements in yield, efficiency and product quality, traits that relate to disease and welfare outcomes have not been so tractable. These two issues are major impacts to the industry in terms of production and in terms of public perception. Both transgenic technology and genome editing have clear potential for impact in these two important areas. The reproductive biology of birds requires techniques very specific to birds to achieve heritable (germline) edited traits. These are quite involved and, even though they are now well-defined and reliable, there is room for improvement and advances can be expected in the future. Currently the key targets for this technology are modifying chicken genes involved in virus-receptor interactions and cellular response involved in infection. For the egg industry the technology is being applied to the issue of sex-selection for layer hens (and the removal of males), removal of allergens from egg white and the tailoring of eggs system to enhance the yield of influenza vaccine doses. Regulation and trading of the animals generated, and resulting food products, will significantly impact the value and future development of genome editing for poultry.
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Tizard, M.L., Jenkins, K.A., Cooper, C.A. et al. Potential benefits of gene editing for the future of poultry farming. Transgenic Res 28, 87–92 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11248-019-00139-0
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