***EDITED TO ADD
: You may wish to scroll down this thread a little to get to the nitty gritty of it. It appears that what I thought were Cobb 500 meat chicks may have been none of the sort. A good case of "Buyer Beware". So you can save yourself the initial ramble, and my excessive bragging, and go straight to the bit where I eat humble pie! (Also changed the title to something more appropriate.)***
I have been growing on ten Cobb 500 meat chickens obtained as day olds. They are 6 weeks old now and the largest one weighs 500 g. They are all male. They will need further growing on and bulking up before butchering.
I was told it was impossible to raise these beyond 6 to 8 weeks without them dropping dead. I have purposely raised them lean so as to give them extended life, improved flavour to the meat and prevent those awful mortality issues usually encountered by 6 weeks.
They have been on standard pullet (not meat) chick starter for 4 weeks then on to standard pullet grower (not meat) since then, off artificial light and heat by 4 weeks and free ranged since then, with natural day/night cycle. They are as healthy and happy as any other chicks their age, quite mobile and sprightly, happily exploring their environment and running around. They do not sit slavishly at their food dish barely able to move.
Can simply a change of diet from meatline to pullet feed and a little free ranging really make such a huge difference? What on earth is in the meatline starter/grower to make them bulk out so fast?
These same birds if force fed high protein food in a meat factory would weigh 2 kg by now, 10% would have died of heart attacks, obesity and organ failure or their legs would have given out under their own weight. They would barely be able to waddle from the feeder to the waterer and back, lying around in their own faeces in litter that hasn't been changed for their entire 6 week life, then off to the butcher's to be processed into supermarket and fast food chicken! In the typical meat factories by six weeks of age they would have as much room each as an A4 peice of paper to move around! They are raised in giant sheds in batches of 26,000 at a time with lights kept on 24/7 so they constantly eat/sleep/eat.
These ones I have should make for healthy sustainable tastier meat or possible breeding stock to cross to other breeds as adults (if they survive that long). (They may eventually get obese and unhealthy no matter what, due to their genetics. I'm not sure, this is my first go at this).
So people lament the need for different breeds for meat that are more capable of free ranging and living longer etc., but all I have done is feed them different food and change their living environment a little in order to achieve that outcome (so far anyway).
Will they eventually inevitably become obese and drop dead anyway? Have I just delayed this? Alternatively, will they grow up lean on pullet feed and never attain to a meaty carcass? Of course I could start feeding them high protein feed from now on in order to obtain a better carcass. But should I?
Funny thing is that my Sussex cross that is the same age is 680 g on the same pullet feed (the Cobb only weigh 500g - and that's the biggest one)!
Also, whenever I have raised other breed cockerels and then culled for meat, I have always raised them on pullet feed, not meat bird feed. So how much is really about the genetics and how much is it about the feed? These Cobbs I have are far from the frankenchickens so often observed and described.
Any thoughts or comments people?