The beginning and the end - Time span 4- 7 weeks


As if Battery Farming for egg production wasn't bad enough, we now move on to the chickens you eat. Again, the principle is to supply food at cheap prices for the masses, but we have to look into the welfare of both the bird and ourselves - what are we eating ?, where does it come from ? how was it kept and killed ? is it healthy ?

Broiler Chicken Production

Broiler chickens are usually kept in windowless sheds containing anything up to 100,000 birds. Everything is done automatically from feeding, water supply and ventilation. Although these birds are not caged, they can be legally stocked at 17 birds per square meter (again, less than one A4 sheet of paper each).

They are overfed and the food supplemented with various 'grow quick' products such as anti-biotics. Hence the birds are ready for killing at the age of about 7 weeks. 'Spring Chickens' (sounds good!) are killed at 4 weeks and some slightly longer for the larger roasts

They arrive in these sheds at only a couple of days old. Firstly, the lighting is set to maximum daylight hours but often dimmed in actual light to prevent too many fights and general aggression. During their stay, the flooring of litter is not changed. The farms will therefore go through about 5 / 6 batches per year. This allows the litter to be cleared and the shed fumigated after each slaughter.

At slaughter age 'Catchers' go around simply picking as many birds as they can in two hands and throw them into crates. The easiest way of doing this is by the legs upside down. They are then transported in Container lorries to the Slaughterhouse. One Container lorry could carry up to 6,000 birds.

Health and other Welfare

The emphasis of this industry is speed. Some years ago it took a bird 82 days to reach it's killing weight, now it is half that time. Because of food supplements and literal factory farming, many birds become lame because the trunk body has grown faster than the legs can take it. One source says that up to 80 per cent of these chickens can have broken or brittle bones by the time they are slaughtered.

Because the floors are not cleaned during their stay, they have to sleep in their own mess. This leads to painful breast blisters and hock burns (these can be identified in Supermarket chickens by the marks at the upper joints of the leg).

About 2 per cent of broilers will die of heart failure. Other known complaints are fatty liver, chronic respiratory disease and kidney syndrome. Overall about 6 per cent die before slaughter.

As far as my own research goes, there are 817 million broiler chickens sold each year in the UK. Sales increased during the foot and mouth crisis and chickens bcame the healthier option. In the world it's 47 billion. Do we have to put 47 billion creatures through this process ? One web site calls the dead bird 'the marketed product !!

I am not a Vegetarian, but I believe strongly in humane farming. Surely these birds with all the drugs, living conditions, diseases and stressful life cannot be doing us any good atall.