'RNA technology' not added to chicken feed
Social media videos claim "RNA technology" is added to commercial chicken feed to prevent hens from laying eggs, which in turn is causing US shortages and price increases. This is false; experts say ribonucleic acid (RNA) is present in all living cells and is not a food additive.
"Let's talk about eggs and why there's a massive shortage and a massive increase in pricing. The RNA technology, you know, the same technology that is in the jab, is now in a lot of chicken feed," says a woman in a January 29, 2023 TikTok video with more than 78,000 views.
"Stop buying eggs way overpriced from the grocery store. Most of these eggs mass production farms anyways and these farms will most definitely be using the chicken feed that has the RNA."
The claim spread further on TikTok and other social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. The posts sprung up alongside other conspiracy theories about US egg shortages, including some that falsely tied the scarcity to billionaire Bill Gates.
The claims about chicken feed are also false.
RNA is a molecule that helps process the genetic information within deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to make proteins. Experts say RNA is naturally occurring and is not added to chicken feed.
"RNA is one of the building blocks of life and is present in all living cells, including the cells of people, animals and plants. RNA is not on its own a feed additive," a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesperson said in an email to AFP.
The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) also refuted the claim on its website, saying RNA "is not an ingredient that can be fed to animals in order to alter their production."
Lilong Chai, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, previously told AFP that US egg shortages "are primarily caused by the outbreak of avian influenza."
Since early 2022, more than 58 million birds have been affected by avian influenza in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 40 million "table egg-laying hens" have died, Chai said, contributing to egg scarcity across the country.
Jayson Lusk, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, said in a January 27, 2023 blog post that inflation has also affected production. He told AFP that social media posts about RNA in chicken feed are promoting "a conspiracy."
"You naturally have RNA in every cell of your body, as do I," Lusk said. "If a chicken eats anything that was living (like corn), it will have RNA. It's not being 'added' as an isolated ingredient."
While nutrition can hinder a hen's egg-laying ability, other important factors include space, light and the laying cycle, said Jacqueline Jacob, a poultry extension project manager at the University of Kentucky, in an article for the US Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension System.
Producers concerned about their hens should consult "a licensed veterinarian, who can examine the animal(s) and take a detailed medical and diet history," the FDA told AFP.
The woman in the TikTok video claims that "RNA technology is causing chickens to have fertility problems," insinuating a similarity to Covid-19 vaccines.
The shots from Pfizer and Moderna are the first FDA-approved jabs to use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. They deliver instructions to cells on how to build a piece of the coronavirus spike protein, after which cells can recognize and fight the virus if infected.
The Covid-19 vaccines have not been linked to fertility issues.
"There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) in women or men," the CDC says on its website.
All of AFP's reporting on vaccine misinformation is available here.