Are Slower-Growing Broilers Less Sustainable? Chicken Council Urges More Research

US - The US' National Chicken Council (NCC) has urged consumers, the food service and retail industries, and non-governmental organisations to invest in studying the impact in the US of the growing market for “slower growing” broiler chickens.
calendar icon 12 January 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

The NCC has released a new study detailing the environmental, economic and sustainability implications of raising slower growing chickens, revealing a sharp increase in chicken prices and the use of environmental resources – including water, air, fuel and land. NCC also calls for more research on the health impact of chickens’ growth rates, to ensure that the future of bird health and welfare is grounded in scientific, data-backed research.

“The National Chicken Council 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, PhD, 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, the NCC said. The organisation also calculated that this would necessitate the use of 670,000 additional tractor trailers of feed, using an extra 7.6 million acres/year of land to grow as well as producing 28.5 billion additional pounds of manure annually that would need to be disposed of.

If the industry did not produce the additional 1.5 billion birds to meet current demand, the NCC said the supply of chicken would significantly reduce to 27.5 billion less chicken meals per year in the US, increasing prices and reducing the supply available to export.

“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 US Poultry and Egg Association for research funding in this area,” said Peterson.

“What we do know is there are tradeoffs and that it is important to take into consideration chicken welfare, sustainability, and providing safe, affordable food for consumers. 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.”

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