Research and innovation have been very limited in most areas of life in this country. But agriculture, particularly in rice research and development of varieties along with fruit tree improvement by the Germplasm Centre of the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), certainly is an exception. Of late, there has been remarkable development in the area of local fish breeding. Some of the fish species on the verge of extinction have received a new lease of life, thanks to development of technologies helping them return back to their natural habitat.
Compared to these positive developments, the livestock had until recently not much to boast of. All this may now change and change phenomenally with the development of a new chicken breed by the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI) and an antibiotic-free broiler variety by a team of researchers at the Rajshahi University (RU) respectively.
The specialty of the first breed called BLRI Multicolour Table Chicken is that it looks exactly like the country's local variety and the taste and quality of its meat is similar. What is particularly significant is that the country's climate is suitable for raising it. There is no need for any enclosure or temperature control as is required for poultry farming. Instead, they can be bred in open spaces just like the local breed. Another advantage is that this variety has a very low mortality rate and does not require intense care ---for they can easily adapt to the country's climate. This will surely bring down the cost of poultry farming significantly.
Currently, the local variety is highly costly and not many can afford its meat. If the newly developed breed is raised extensively in poultry farms, it will be much cheaper and affordable to the general consumers. A group of nine scientists began research in laboratory on this variety in 2014 and their success led to experimental production in 2018. No wonder, with the prospect looking bright, a local hatchery has come forward to sign a memorandum of understanding with the BLRI for commercial production and marketing of the new variety.
Clearly, the production base needs to be wider in order to serve the country with this protein source. Broiler chickens now available at a cheaper rate are raised by indiscriminate application of antibiotic. The antibiotic in meat does not disappear even after cooking. Rather, it enters into food chain and in human body. Even if it is in small proportion, it can lead to a buildup of antibiotic-resistant pathogen. So there is a need for phasing out the broiler breed raised on use of antibiotics.
It is exactly at this point, the development of antibiotic-free broiler at the RU holds immense potential. Attempts are worldwide to develop antibiotic-free broilers. So this is also a remarkable feat on the part of the team of scientists led by two teachers of the veterinary and animal sciences under the RU. This breed also tastes better and has lower mortality like the one developed by the BLRI. Already such broilers are being produced in what is called "Green Broiler". Commercial production of this variety will bring about a huge change in the quality of cheap meat, particularly for the low-income group.
When the food security is threatened by the climate change, more such research on both plant breeding and livestock breeding will be in demand. These two teams have demonstrated that the country's scientists are capable enough of rising up to the challenge. The need is to encourage research and experiment at the highest level getting the momentum to become a scientific tradition and culture.