With such a high demand how can chicken farmers ever hope to keep up?
The answers are quite staggering. I have worked with animals for nearly 20 years and I was shocked. So much so I am changing our eating habits....
Boxes of chicks are delivered to the farmer soon after they hatch. These little fluffy bundles weigh 40g (less than a packet of Rolos). They will weigh 1.5kg (the same as a bag of flour) when they leave the shed, in 30 DAYS time. That is the equivalent of a baby putting on half a stone a day!
These chicks cost about 17 pence each and the farmer will make about 13 pence profit on each one so there is little room for error. Due to such a minimal profit, these birds are kept in a controlled environment free from anything that may pose a threat to their health.
In the first 10 days, they have the ends of their beaks cut of with an 80C laser. This is so that they don't cause fatal injuries when they peck each other in the confined space.
The chickens are fed special feed with antibiotics in. These drugs reduce the amount of natural bacteria found in the gut which means much faster nutrient absorption and weight gain. They also have long artificial daylight hours which also helps speed up the process.
Due to the farmed chickens being kept under artificial light, daylight can prove fatal. The natural light can send the birds in to shock and result in them having a heart attack! Like wise, if the windows are left open there are so many germs the air the birds don't have the immune system to fight them all off.
There is legislation that controls the number of chickens kept in a certain amount of space. In the EU, the current density is 39kg per square meter. That means each bird has a space the size of a sheet and a half of A4 paper. Good news for the farmer, little movement equals fatter birds.
In the UK alone, up to 400 tonnes of antibiotics are used each year in food producing livestock. This medication is the same as human antibiotics. Unfortunately, the over use of these drugs is causing an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria. Every year in Europe, 25,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections.
Free Range or farmed? On average free range hens lay about 36 eggs a year. Due to selective breeding, battery hens can produce 320 eggs a year but they can only maintain this for about 16 months. After which they are slaughtered, mainly for tinned soup.
The suffering for these poor birds doesn't end there. Even the way they are slaughtered is truly awful. Having been transported to the slaughter house in over packed crates, they are hung up by the feet. They pass through an electrified bath to stun them before having their throats cut. Unfortunately, not all the birds are cut so have regained consciousness before the next stage. To remove their feathers they are then passed through a bath of scolding hot water. Agony. They are then passed through a series of machines which prepare them for sale.
If you are still watching, thank you. I'm not sure I could eat chicken again after watching these films and reading about their horrific short lives. I have decided that if I do want to eat chicken I shall only be buying free range from now on. I only buy free range eggs anyway. Had I known about this process I would have changed to free range a long time ago!