Stand to attention Colonel Sanders - you face competition from Hong Kong Superchick. Mother hen researchers at Hong Kong University are worried that top tasting Chinese native chickens are becoming extinct because farmers keep breeding them with foreign impostors. There are many varieties of Chinese chicks, which are wholesome, but grow slowly. The greedy Western broiler, by contrast, has been bred to grow like a balloon but can also taste like it, while it has lost much disease resistance. Chinese farmers began crossing their native scrawny versions with the Western type, and Western breeders are eyeing Chinese birds - with the result that some Chinese pure breeds have already clucked their last, says project leader Professor Daniel Chan Kwong-on of the zoology department at the university. Now scientific methods of genetic fingerprinting and choosing the chromosomes should find the optimum grower with the best flavoured meat - a true, finger-lickin' good Superchick. Today a team of four researchers will unveil their $8.25 million, three-year government-funded project to save Chinese chickens as a source of pure genes. 'Maintaining the gene pool is an important aspect of this project and improving the taste of chicken,' said associate professor of zoology and team member Frederick Leung Chi-ching. The team would start with four or five breeds closest to extinction out of about 20 to 50 native chickens in southern China, he said. The work could give birth to a Hong Kong and Chinese chicken export industry while enhancing competitiveness among local farmers, said Agriculture and Fisheries officials. They will provide space and vets at Castle Peak for the gene bank - a line of chicken sheds. The researchers have even formed a chicken tasting panel - all in the name of science.