For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The genetic engineering of farm animals raises all manner of vexing questions. And as gene tinkering applies to poultry, it even offers a reprise of the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum. To wit: Which came first, the chimera or the clone? 

The answer lies with two biotech firms, California-based Origen Therapeutics and Embrex of North Carolina, that are fine-tuning a process to mass-produce genetically uniform chickens—an effort boosted last July by a $4.7-million federal research grant from the National Institute of Science and Technology. “This is not cloning, per se,” says Joan Kureczka, spokeswoman for Origen, “but it is a way to produce, on a large scale, the ideal bird.” By injecting embryonic stem cells cultivated from a grade-A chicken into dozens, thousands, or even millions of newly laid eggs, Origen and Embrex hope to suppress the eggs’ natural genetic makeup and create “chimeras”—chicks that are near carbon copies, genetically speaking. (The companies may have also produced a few identical matches, or true clones.) Such uniformity is a tantalizing prospect for a poultry industry eager to streamline production: The engineered fowl would mature at the same rate, require the same amount of feed, and taste exactly the same. The technology is still a few years, and a number of regulatory hoops, away from market. But don’t be surprised if KFC one day becomes an acronym for Kentucky Fried Chimera.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate