10 things you should know about factory-farmed meat chickens

Posted on 11 January 2019 by

Guest Blogger

in the Animals in farming blog

Industrial meat chicken farming is one of the biggest causes of animal suffering globally. Yet most people have no idea what these intelligent, sensitive animals endure.

Global chicken consumption is growing each year, so to keep up with demand, and so companies farming chickens for meat have significantly sped up the growing process.

However, in many cases the welfare of chickens is completely disregarded, leaving them to suffer miserably throughout their short lives.

Did you know?

  • Around 60 billion chickens are reared for meat each year. 40 billion of these are raised in huge, crowded sheds, or cramped cages. They are kept in dismal conditions and suffer painful heart, skin, lung and bone problems and stress.
  • Chicken is one of the world’s most popular meats. Between 1996-2016, demand for chicken meat grew almost 40% in the European Union, 89% in China and 183% in India.
  • A factory-farmed chicken lives an average of 42 days.

Image: 32 day old broiler (meat) chickens in a commercial indoor system.

  • Many factory-grown chickens gain more than 50g in weight every day. However, their immune systems, organs and legs cannot keep up, so they suffer a range of physical problems as a result.
  • Meat chickens are still babies when they’re slaughtered. Due to increased growth rate and shortened life span, chickens bred for meat may look fully-grown despite still being young.
  • Only specific breeds of chicken are bred for meat. They’re genetically selected for their ability to reach ‘slaughter weight’” as fast as possible.

Image: 38 day old broiler (meat) chickens in caged systems. At this farm there were 80-90 chickens in each cage, which were in three tiers.

  • Around 2,000 meat chickens are slaughtered every second around the world.
  • Many meat chickens live in a space smaller than an A4 piece of paper. By the time they’re ready for slaughter, there’s barely space for them to move.

Image: 32 day old broiler (meat) chickens in a commercial indoor system.

  • Chickens love ‘dust-bathing’. It’s an important natural behaviour, keeps feathers in good condition, and removes parasites. Factory-grown chickens are commonly prevented from dust-bathing and carrying out other important behaviours, such as pecking, scratching and perching.
  • 71% of people never ask where the chicken is from when buying it at a fast-food outlet. This insight came from our recent global survey of 12,000 people.

Steve McIvor, our CEO, said: "This conveyor belt of rapidly-grown chickens comes at a price. Behind the world’s favourite meat is an unacceptable cost of suffering that is increasing as the global demand for chicken grows."

Progress of egg-laying hen welfare must be replicated

In recent years, more consumers have demanded higher welfare egg products. In response, several food companies, including Nestle and McDonald’s, have pledged to go cage-free for egg laying hens.

Unfortunately, however, the plight of meat chickens remains hidden. Most people don’t know about the endless suffering a meat chicken endures before it becomes meat on a plate.

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