Putin wants to bring back a Soviet era chicken variety

By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 09, 2018
Credit: Photo by Alexander Ryumin via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin has been pushing Russia to breed more “super chickens,” as Bloomberg dubbed the birds, to fend off a supposed national security risk. While it’s fun to imagine a cavalry of horse-sized chickens with laser eyes clucking aggressively as they invade Russia’s enemies, the reality is a bit more mundane.

When the Trump administration announced its proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, officials tried to garner support by framing the decisions as a national security issue: Whether accurate or not, the argument went that by being overly reliant on these metals from other countries, America risked not being able to fill its own demand if supplies were suddenly cut off. In Russia, Putin’s government is taking a similar approach to their development of these “super chickens.” According to Bloomberg, chicken is Russia’s main source of protein, but the vast majority of eggs and chicks that the country uses to produce all that meat comes from the US. Though America currently doesn’t impose food sanctions on Russia, if we did, it could potentially become an immediate security risk by undermining the average Russians food supply.

So instead, the Russian government has been pushing development of its own breed of chickens. “There are a lot of pressure points for anyone who seeks to destroy our economy,” Andrei Klepach, chief economist at state development bank VEB, was quoted as saying. “The recovery of breeding work is a priority. We need a sort of armored train on a sidetrack.”

The chicken variety in question is the Smena, a type of chicken first bred in the 1970s that went by the wayside as Western competitors took over Russia’s market. What makes the bird “super” is that Russian scientists hope that it will be able to be as viable as the currently imported breeds for mass scale food production. In fact, Vladimir Fisinin, head of the Russian Poultry Union, is optimistic that Smena could cover 25 percent of Russia’s domestic chicken market by 2025. In 2016, Russia’s chicken supply was about 4 million metric tons of meat.

In Fisinin’s mind, with current global instability, the stakes of solidifying Russian chicken production are huge. “Who the hell knows what fool will come next, like this Mr. Trump,” Fisinin was quoted as saying, arguing for Russia to become more self-reliant with chicken.