The National Poultry Improvement Plan, NPIP was started in the early 1930's to coordinate State programs aimed at the elimination of pullorum disease from commercial poultry. Pullorum is a bacterial disease of poultry that is transmitted from a hen to her chicks via the egg. By testing adult birds and eliminating disease carriers from the breeding flock, commercial chicken and turkey producers have eliminated this costly disease.

Probably the greatest single factor which limited the early expansion of the poultry industry was the disease known as Bacillary White Diarrhea (BWD), caused by Salmonella pullorum. This disease, later called pullorum disease, was unbridled in poultry, and could cause upwards of 80 percent mortality in baby poultry. Poultrymen recognized that problem but were unable to combat it until the causative organism was discovered by Dr. Leo Rettger in 1899 and a diagnostic blood test was developed by Dr. F.S. Jones in 1913.

Since pullorum disease was found to be egg-transmitted, following these two discoveries, individual poultrymen started to test their birds for pullorum disease and eliminate the reactors from the breeding flocks. But the disease was so widespread; they soon realized that if they were to be successful, a widespread, coordinated effort would be necessary. A number of states started statewide pullorum testing programs in the early 1920's; and before long, a few breeding flocks were being identified as free of pullorum.

About this same time some of the early poultrymen started to exert a conscientious effort to improve the genetic production capabilities of their stock. Even though a thorough understanding of genetics was lacking, considerable improvement was made through trapnesting programs which identified superior individual birds. This would be expanded later to include individual male matings and family selection as tools to improve production potential.

In the early 1930's members of the poultry breeding and hatching industries, through the International Baby Chick Association (IBCA), started to recognize the advantage of a national program for the improvement of poultry. It was envisioned that such a program would utilize the good points of the individual State breeding and disease control programs and develop standard terminology which would be equally applicable in all areas of the country.

Finally, after a few years, several IBCA conventions, numerous committee meetings, and countless hours of deliberations, the provisions for the first nationwide poultry improvement program were finalized in 1934. This program, which became operational July 1, 1935 was named the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), was subsequently adopted by 47 States. The National Turkey Improvement Plan (NTIP) was activated on September 25, 1943. On December 3, 1971, the two Plans were combined under one title, "the NPIP," with separate provisions applicable to the different types of poultry. These States plus Nevada, which was added in 1994, became responsible for the blood testing and subsequent classification for various disease control programs of over 3 billion breeding chickens and 250 million breeding turkeys during the 70 years since the founding of the NPIP. The following graph describes the decline in percent pullorum disease reactors found in breeding flocks.

In the late 1940"s, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known as the A&P Grocery Company suggested that poultry breeders concentrate on meat yield rather than pure breed characteristics in chickens. This development may have been the first step in the eventual elimination of the breeding component of the NPIP. It triggered the establishment of the "Chicken of Tomorrow Contest," which was established to develop a higher yielding meat-type chicken. The 1951 Chicken of Tomorrow Contest was won by Charles Vantress with a Hybrid Cross: Cornish X New Hampshire. Breeders such as Cobb and Arbor Acres made advances with a similar cross with white feathered birds. This was the beginning of the modern broiler industry. The commercial went in a different direction in terms of genetics, thus the NPIP breeding programs fell from favor.

The next modification point in the history of the NPIP was the establishment of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Act in 1957. The condemnations at the processing plant due to airsacculitis were extreme in some cases ( see above chart). The losses were due in part to Chronic Respiratory Disease in chickens and plueropneumonialike organism (PPLO) in turkeys. Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) was determined to be the causative organism in both of these conditions. MG was found to be egg-transmitted like pullorum disease and was added to the NPIP as a plan disease for turkeys in 1965 and for turkeys in 1966.

Since Mycoplasma synoviae (MS), which can cause Infectious Synovitis in turkeys and chickens, was found to be egg-transmitted, it was added to the NPIP as a Plan disease in 1974. In 1983, Mycoplasma meleagridis (MM) was added to the NPIP as a plan disease for turkey breeding flocks.

The next modification point in the history of the NPIP was in the late 1980's when Salmonella enteritidis (SE) surfaced as a human health problem particularly in the Northeastern quadrant of the Country. Research indicated that this serotype of Salmonella was egg-transmitted like pullorum disease. It too was a natural for the NPIP and thus the establishment in the 1989 of the current SE programs for egg-and meat-type breeding chickens in the NPIP.

The next modification point in the history of the NPIP was in the early 1990's with the development of the global marketplace. The poultry industry began to export large quantities of poultry genetic stock and poultry meat. The major trading partners wanted assurances that the poultry and poultry products originated from breeding flocks free of avian influenza. Thus the establishment of the "U.S. Avian Influenza Clean" program for breeding chickens in 1998.

The latest modification point in the history of the NPIP took place in July, 2004, in San Francisco, California with the addition of commercial production poultry (table-egg layers, broilers, and meat-turkeys) as a new part of the NPIP. The delegates of the 37th biennial conference of the NPIP approved a new H5/H7 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) Monitored classification for table-egg layers, broilers, and meat-turkeys.

A Chronological List of Events which have helped to shape the NPIP

1873- American Poultry Association founded: American Standard of Perfection for purebred poultry.
1884- Bureau of Animal Industry established as a agency of the U.S. Department of Agricuture.1899 - Dr. Leo Rettger of Yale University isolated an organism which caused the disease known as BWD. 1904- First official egg laying contest in the United States was held in Kansas1913- The tube agglutination test for the detection of chickens infected with BWD was developed by Dr. F.S. Jones of Cornell University.
1914- First organized efforts to control BWD began in Connecticut.
1915- IBCA was formed.
1918- U.S. Postal Service accepted first baby chicks to be shipped by parcel post.
1925- The name of the organism causing BWD, Bacterium pullorum was changed to Salmonella pullorum.
1926- U.S. Egg Society, which evolved into the Institute of American Poultry Industries and was the forerunner of the Poultry and Egg Institute, was formed.
1927- Rapid serum test antigen for pullorum disease was reported by Runnells, Coon, Farley, and Thorpe.
1931 Stained antigen for the rapid whole blood test for pullorum disease was reported by Schaffer, MacDonald, Hall, and Bunyea
1934 Hatchery men, breeders, university, and Government representatives approved uniform procedures and terminology for breeding practices and pullorum disease control during the IBCA Convention. These rules would govern participation in the NPIP.
1935 NPIP was established by act of Congress.
1938 Infectious sinusitis in turkeys was described by Dickinson and Hinshaw.
1943 NTIP came into existence under USDA.
Chronic Respiratory disease (CRD) was described by Delaplane and Stuart.
1948 The first National Chicken-of-Tomorrow contest was held.
1949 The first U.S. Random Sample Egg Production Test was conducted in California
1954 The National Broiler Council (now named the National Chicken Council) was organized.
The NPIP recognized flocks which are free of S. gallinarum (fowl typhoid), based on a test conducted at the same time as pullorum disease test.
Preparation of antigen for the rapid serum test for MG was described by Adler, Yamamoto, and others.
1957 Poultry Products Inspection Act requires all dressed poultry to be inspected for wholesomeness.
1958 Mycoplasma meleagridis was reported by Adler and others as causing airsacculitis in turkey poults.
1959 The dipping of eggs in antibiotic solutions for the control of MG was described by Chalquest and Fabricant.
1962 Preparation of MS antigen for agglutination test was described by Olson and others.
1965 MG testing program was added to the NTIP
1966 MG testing program was added to the NPIP
1967 The first year in which products handled by all chicken hatcheries in the NPIP were 100 percent "U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean."
1970 The NPIP and the NTIP were combined into one program.
1974 MS testing program was added to the NPIP
The first year in which no MG positive turkey breeding flocks were reported to the NPIP.
USDA made available the "U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean State" status for States meeting the requirements
1980 USDA made available the "U.S. MG Clean State, Turkeys" status for States meeting the requirements.
1983 MM testing program for turkeys was added to the NPIP.
1989 SE testing program for egg-type chickens was added to the NPIP
1994 SE testing program for meat-type chickens was added to the NPIP
1996 Ratites was added as subpart F to the NPIP
1998 Avian Influenza testing program for egg-and meat-type chickens was added to the NPIP.
2004 A new part for commercial table-egg layers, broilers, and turkeys was added to the NPIP
A new H5/H7 LPAI monitoring program for commercial table-egg layers, broilers and turkeys was added to the NPIP