10 things to know about factory-farmed chickens

December 12 2016

As global chicken consumption grows each year, the mass production of meat chickens remains one of the biggest causes of animal suffering in the world. Here are ten facts about factory-farmed chicken raised for meat that consumers should know:

In recent years, consumers have demanded higher-welfare food products, and numerous major food businesses have pledged to convert to sourcing cage-free eggs. But the plight of meat chickens remains hidden from sight with most people not knowing where the meat on their plate comes from. 

10 things to know about factory-farmed chickens:

1. 60 billion chickens are raised every year across the world to be sold for their meat. 40 billion of these will be raised in huge, crowded sheds, or cages, kept in dismal conditions that can cause them painful heart, skin, lung and bone problems and immense stress.

2. Chicken is now one of the world’s most popular meats. Between 1996-2016, demand for chicken meat grew 22% in the United States, 38% in the European Union, 89% in China, and 183% in India. The average U.S. consumer is expected to consume 89.6 pounds of chicken meat in 2016, up from 88.9 pounds per capita in 2015.

3. A factory-farmed chicken lives an average of just 42 days. A chicken’s natural life expectancy is several years.

4. Factory-farmed chickens gain more than 1.76 ounces every day, but their immune systems, organs and legs cannot keep up, meaning they can suffer a range of physical problems.

5. Because of their shortened life span, chickens bred for meat may look fully grown, but they are still babies when they are slaughtered.

6. Specific breeds of chicken are bred only for meat, genetically selected for their ability to reach “slaughter weight” as fast as possible.

7. Around 2,000 meat chickens are slaughtered every second.

8. By the time they are ready for slaughter, many meat chickens live in a space smaller than an 8.5 by 11” piece of paper.

9. Chickens love “dust-bathing”: digging a shallow hole to jump in and covering themselves in dry dust and dirt. It’s an important natural behavior, keeping their feathers in good condition and removing parasites. Factory-grown chickens are commonly prevented from dust-bathing and carrying out other important behaviors, such as pecking, scratching and perching.

10. Seven out of ten chicken (71%) consumers polled globally for World Animal Protection admitted that, when buying chicken at a fast-food outlet, they never ask where it comes from.

What do you know about the chicken on your plate? Watch this short video to find out...

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

“We need to expose the woefully poor conditions that many factory-grown chickens are living in. They are suffering in secret, behind closed doors and away from public view. KFC has a huge stake in the market with more than 18,000 outlets in 115 countries; we want to see them use their global influence to show they care about the welfare of chickens.”

As the demand for chicken meat continues to rise, we believe consumers should no longer be kept in the dark, as our new global poll reveals just how little consumers know about the chicken on their plate.

The poll – of 12,000 people worldwide - shows that although people are concerned about what they eat, very few know where that meat has come from.

What the poll tells us about U.S. consumer views: 

  • Nine out of ten (89%) did not know that a chicken will only live on average 42 days
  • Of those who eat chicken, four out of five (77%) said they would not buy chicken from a fast-food chain if they knew it had suffered serious health problems as a result of living in a cramped industrial farm
  • Four out of five (81%) never ask where their chicken comes from at fast-food outlets.

We are challenging fast food retailers such as KFC to improve the welfare of billions of chickens, because mass production is one of the biggest causes of animal suffering in the world. The organization wants to see:

  • The use of chicken breeds that grow at a slower, more natural rate
  • More living space for the chickens
  • More enrichments for the chickens to engage with and explore, such as perches and hay bales
  • The introduction of natural light in the sheds

For more information on our current campaign, please visit our Change for chickens page.

“This conveyor belt of rapidly grown chickens comes at a price. Behind the world’s favorite meat is an unacceptable cost of suffering that is increasing as the global demand for chicken grows."
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