Simple SummaryThe loss of biodiversity is a matter of great concern worldwide. In the agricultural sector, the industrialization of livestock farming and the wide-spread use of highly selected hybrids, especially in developed countries, has led to the progressive extinction of many native breeds in these contexts. Nowadays, safeguarding poultry biodiversity is a key objective in all developed countries, Italy included. As a part of a large cross-sectional national project called 'Conservation of biodiversity in Italian poultry breeds', a questionnaire was designed to evaluate the diffusion of native chicken breeds and their relative product markets. The data reveal the poor diffusion of native breeds despite the existence of a niche market for their products. Indeed, increasing consumer concern about conventional production practices and the growing demand for alternative poultry products, which can fetch high retail prices, should be leveraged to encourage the diffusion of native chicken breeds in alternative poultry farming. An important knock-on effect would be the preservation of biodiversity.The intensive use of high-performing strains in poultry production has led to the extinction of several autochthonous chicken breeds and, consequently, loss of genetic variability. Interest in saving biodiversity is growing rapidly and has become a major objective worldwide. The aim of this study was to shed light on the production trends of native Italian poultry breeds and the related market. A questionnaire, which asked about the production cycles, the number of animals and table eggs produced per year and their retail prices was completed by 121 breeders across Italy. The surveyed breeders were divided into two categories: breeders conducting an agrozootechnical farm, referred to as 'farmers' (F); and breeders keeping chickens as backyard poultry, referred to as 'fancy breeders' (FB). Analysis of the data acquired indicated that animals were mainly slaughtered between 6 and 12 months of age, with F processing more animals per year. The same production trend was observed for table eggs. The recorded retail prices of native chicken products were higher than those for conventional products, but similar to those reported for valuable niche poultry products, such as the Poulet de Bresse in France and organic eggs. Knowledge about these highly valuable markets should be used to encourage the use of local breeds in alternative poultry farming and help protect biodiversity.
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