Sonali chicken: an Egyptian-American crossbreed that has nothing Pakistani about it

Called Pakistani cock by some, this breed of chicken has very little to do with Pakistan

Masum Kamalbdnews24.com
Published : 12 March 2024, 09:11 PM
Updated : 12 March 2024, 09:11 PM

“How much is a Pakistani cock?” asked Selina Begum, a resident of Nakhalpara. “Tk 320 a kg,” replied the shopkeeper at Mohakhali Kitchen Market.

Called Pakistani cock by some, this breed of chicken has very little to do with Pakistan.

Invented by a Bangladeshi scientist, the real name of the chicken is Sonali.

After the chicken raised by families in rural Bangladesh became too expensive, and broiler chicken too risky and tasteless to eat, a section of health-conscious Bangladeshis who cannot afford Desi chicken have found the answer in Sonali Murgi, which can be translated to Golden Chicken.

It is 50 percent pricier than broiler, but half the price of Desi chicken. Still, the taste is near Desi chicken. It can be used for gravy dishes, kebabs, fries and even biryani.

HOW THE BREED WAS INVESTED

Efforts to make foreign varieties of chicken that can be produced at a large scale and low cost started in the 60s and continued after independence.

Cockerel chickens were bred by crossing Italy’s White Leg and Rhode Island Red or RIR of the US.

Sonali chicken was also first bred at that time.

Md Sajedul Karim, chief scientific officer of Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute, said Sonali is a cress breed of Egyptian Fahmi chicken and RIR.

Bibek Chandra Roy, a poultry geneticist, gave the same information in his book on Sonali’s invention and three and a half decades of its development.

He wrote that the Egyptian-American was most successful among 22 cross breeds during research led by Md Abdul Jalim Ambar, the then deputy director of the Department of Livestock Services in its central government farm in Mirpur in 1986.

Broiler chicken had a very small market at that time, when mostly Desi chicken was available but eaten only occasionally, such as weekends, to treat guests or festivals like Eid.

As Bangladesh’s population boom continued, it became difficult to meet the demand for protein.

After Jalil’s death in 2004, agriculturist Shah Jamal, an assistant director of Jamalganj Government Farm in Joypurhat and researcher of a project named Participatory Livestock Development, worked on the development of Sonali.

Sonali was not marketed after the cross breeding trial in Mirpur because it failed to gain popularity, said Jamal. The cocks of this breed looked like the Egyptian variety, but the chickens were golden.

Under the project to develop livestock in coordination with 10 NGOs and foreign researchers, Sonali was perfected in 2000 and it started to become popular.

An adult Sonali chicken lays 190-200 eggs a year and weighs 1.5 to 2.25 kg.

Jamal said Fahmi variety chicks were brought from Pakistan, not Egypt, at one stage of the research on Sonali, and somehow people started calling it Pakistani cock.

Now Bangladesh produces 8.5 million Sonali chickens every week, according to Bangladesh Poultry Association, an organisation of private farmers.

Its President Sumon Howlader said they produce 900,000 Sonali chicks daily.

Trader Wahidul Islam of Karwan Bazar said the demand for Sonali is high because it looks and tastes like Desi chickens.

Customer Zafrul Hasan said he was buying Sonali chicken because his guests may not like broilers. “Its meat is nearly as hard as Desi chicken and the taste is almost the same.”

Despite the taste, Sonali chickens do not have additional nutrition value, said ABM Khaleduzzaman, a director of the Department of Livestock Services.

“The nutrition value of all the commercially produced chickens is almost the same,” he said.