It does make you wonder, however, that if the old purebreeds were so productive, why was it deemed necessary to create the modern hybrids? Developing the ISA Brown would have cost a lot of time and money - what makes them so much better than (say) the CSIRO Leghorns of the time that the latter were replaced by ISAs within a short space of time?
Surely it's not just the need for a placid chook that took to battery conditions but continued to lay as well as the purebreeds did? Or maybe it was?
Also, I don't think it's necessary to be derogatory about the Poultry Nationals or any other show/exhibition. The thousands of people coming through the doors aren't just dedicated poultry fanciers. There's everyday people looking for the physical representations of the ideals that they see illustrated in books, to make a decision about the breeds they want to put in their backyards, to talk to people who really know about chooks of ALL kinds, who are actively rejecting the conformity of the ISA Brown and looking to have something a little bit different. Who knows - maybe even breed birds themselves for their own, multitudinous purposes.
Without shows and exhibitions like this, how would we capture people's imaginations? Humans are a visual creature after all. I got a huge kick out of chatting to everyone who came through; people who wanted to talk about the multi-coloured eggs I had on my table, and who didn't care any more than I do about what breeds laid them (which are pures and crosses and all kinds of weird and wonderfuls). And then I loved going through the shed to see those beautiful, shining birds of all kinds, and just look and learn and absorb. Where else could I do that? Where else would I learn that a Barnevelder really can be a large, solid bird AND still be productive? (And I know that because the bird was bred by someone who really cares about the utility characteristics of Barnies).
The thing is that I know a lot of the people putting their birds in these shows, these days. I know that they ARE, in fact, breeding for utility. For brown eggs, or white eggs, or lots of eggs, or a good eating carcase. And then they look at the results they're getting and thinking "hey, that matches the Standard and is a good-looking bird. I might put that into a Show, just for fun". And guess what?
THEY'RE WINNING. The utility versions of the breeds are winning. They take their prize-winning birds and they put them straight back to work laying those eggs and they breed from them and create more utility-focussed birds.
So we're listening, and we're changing. The times of "chooks are only bred by fanciers who don't care about performance and only care about looks" - assuming this really existed in the first place in a general sense - are also in the past. Sure, there are some breeds that have further to go than others - the winning standard Indian Game looked like a table and was wider than tall, and I'm sure Ruff would have something to say about its ability to actually create decent offspring without help - but overall, there's a distinct movement toward practicality.
In the end, unless someone does something really radical, the most fantastic utility breeds aren't going to lay more than one egg a day, every day, under any circumstance.
Now, having said all that, I WOULD like to see the re-introduction of the Laying Tests mentioned in your articles. I'm assuming the records were cross-checked against some central authority so people didn't just tell complete porkies about how well their chooks could lay. Does anyone know what these Tests entailed, and how they might effectively be re-introduced to modern exhibitions/shows? I'd love to see the records and then the actual bird that produced those records in the flesh, so one could compare the highly-productive birds against highly-standard birds and see if there were an obvious difference in appearance.
That would be really cool. And I strongly suspect we're not too far away from them, from the conversations I see in here and that I had today, and have been having with people at the various shows/field days/exhibitions/etc that our local groups participate in.
Oops, sorry, that turned into a little bit of a rant