Examining Sustainability Factors in Chicken Production

Jamie Johansen

The results of a study released by the National Chicken Council (NCC) have detailed several environmental, economic and sustainability implications of raising slower growing chickens. The results reveal a sharp increase in chicken prices and the use of environmental resources – including water, air, fuel and land.

“The NCC and its members remain committed to chicken welfare, continuous improvement and respecting consumer choice – including the growing market for a slower growing bird,” said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. “However, these improvements must be dictated by science and data – not activists’ emotional rhetoric – which is why we support further research on the topic of chicken welfare and growth rates.”

If only one-third of broiler chicken producers switched to a slower growing breed, nearly 1.5 billion more birds would be needed annually to produce the same amount of meat currently produced – requiring an increase of 7.6 million acres/year of land, 5.1 billion additional gallons of water per year, enough feed to fill 670,000 additional tractor trailers on the road per year.

The additional cost of even 1/3 of the industry switching to slower growing birds would be $9 billion. All current measurable data – livability, disease, condemnation, digestive and leg health – reflect that the national broiler flock is as healthy as it has ever been.

“We don’t know if raising chickens slower than they are today would advance our progress on health and welfare – which is why NCC has expressed its support to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association for research funding in this area,” said Peterson. “There may not be any measurable welfare benefits to the birds, despite these negative consequences. Research will help us identify if there are additional, unforeseen consequences of raising birds for longer.”

For additional information and resources about how chickens are raised, visit here.

Ag Group, Chicken, National Chicken Council, Research, sustainability