Fact Check-No evidence ‘RNA technology’ in chicken feed behind infertility or U.S. egg shortage

The avian flu and inflation have contributed to egg shortages and rising prices in the United States, industry officials say, contrary to claims shared online that “RNA technology” used in feed is causing infertility in chickens.

Some posts also reference studies unrelated to the contents of chicken feed, to chicken fertility or to RNA to imply that a feed additive is behind egg shortages and increased prices.

One post says, “RNA technology in chicken feed causing chickens to stop laying“ and can be seen (here) . Other examples can be seen (here) and (here).

RNA refers to ribonucleic acid, which is structurally similar to DNA and is present in all living cells, as explained by a fact sheet from the National Human Genome Research Institute (here).

Among the many roles of RNA is to “transcribe” the instructions written in DNA, and carry those out of the cell nucleus to be read and “translated” by the cell (here).

However, genome scientists and poultry industry officials say RNA has no role in the rising costs and decreased supply of eggs in the United States, which are mainly due to supply chain issues and the global outbreak of a highly lethal avian flu. Reuters reported on Jan. 23 that almost 58 million chickens and turkeys have been killed by flu or culled to curb the outbreak since early 2022, and that a farm group wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the high egg prices for potential gouging (here).

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) has debunked the claims about RNA, chicken feed and reduced egg production, publishing an article on its website (here) that explains RNA is present in all living beings and “it is not an ingredient that can be fed to animals in order to alter their production.”

Sarah Novak, AFIA’s chief operating officer, said in an email that, “RNA ‘as an ingredient’ is not fed to chickens.” A list of approved ingredients for use in poultry, livestock and pet food can be found (here).

There is also no evidence of alleged additives in chicken feed affecting the laying habits of chickens.

There are a variety of reasons that chickens might stop laying eggs, including “inadequate nutrition, improper management, natural aging, etc,” said Gwen Venable, executive vice president of communications of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. “It is not uncommon for new backyard-chicken owners to notice this and be puzzled by it.”

Among the posts claiming that RNA is somehow involved in chickens ceasing to lay eggs, none provides evidence for RNA-related additives in chicken feed or how such “technology” might relate to chicken fertility. Instead, some videos being shared on TikTok (here) and (here) make reference to various studies on other topics.

In two of the studies (here) and (here ) , researchers examine RNA in chickens’ cells to identify genes associated with a chicken making the most efficient use of its feed to grow, with the idea that identifying those genes could provide information for selective breeding.

Another study discusses selective breeding practices in general without any mention of RNA (here). And the fourth discusses an alternative to chemical pesticides in the use of a specific form of RNA to suppress essential proteins in the bodies of insects, with no relation to chickens or feed (here ).

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesperson told Reuters via email that “the articles cited are not relevant to the arguments being made in the video” and none discusses “adding RNA to commercial chicken feed or modifying chicken feed.”

“It is important to note that Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is not on its own a feed additive,” the FDA spokesperson added. “RNA is one of the building blocks of life and is present in all living cells, including the cells of people, animals and plants.”

Behnam Abasht, an author of one of the papers on identifying genes linked with chickens’ “feed efficiency” told Reuters via email that the paper “neither discusses nor supports” the circulating claim about RNA and chicken feed. “Also, there is no such thing as adding RNA to chicken feed,” Abasht said. “This claim is totally wrong.”


False. There is no evidence that “RNA technology” is present in chicken feed, or causing infertility in chickens or involved in the current egg shortage in the United States

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .