Broiler Chickens Fact Sheet

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LAST UPDATED: 6 June 2018

Click here for 8 facts about chicken meat that will turn your stomach

85-90% of the 650 million chickens raised for meat in Australia each year are factory-farmed:1 intensively confined for the whole of their short lives in sheds with tens of thousands of others. The industry’s own statistics reveal that as a result of current production methods, around 4% of birds suffer and die prematurely in sheds annually.2

Thousands of white broiler chickens on the ground inside a huge shed

The demand for cheap chicken meat saw the introduction of fast-growing poultry strains. Chickens today have been selectively bred to grow at three times their natural rate and, as a result, are slaughtered from just five weeks of age.3

The consequences of this rapid and unnatural growth are dire for many birds. As their bodies grow too quickly, walking and even standing can become difficult due to lameness or dislocated joints. Young birds have the bodies of adults which puts enormous pressure on their hearts and immature skeletons.

Broiler chicken crouched on ground of factory farm shed
Chickens today have been selectively bred to grow at three times their natural weight. Rapid growth can cause lameness and heart failure.

Every year, around 26 million chickens4 are expected to die in sheds from illness, trauma, and starvation when, unable to support their unnatural weight, they cannot reach food and water. Most of these birds succumb to heart failure and fluid on the lungs — with these vital organs unable to keep up with their rapid growth.

For those who survive to reach slaughter weight, industry standards allow birds to be kept at 20 birds per square metre — this equates to each bird being forced to live within the space of an A4 piece of paper. For the duration of their short lives, the sheds will not be cleaned, and will slowly accumulate a thick layer of corrosive faeces that can painfully burn their breasts and feet.

Dead broiler chicken with red exposed skin on the ground in factory farm shed
Around 26 million Australian chickens die in sheds every year from illness, trauma, and starvation when, unable to support their unnatural weight, they cannot reach food and water.

References

  1. “Free range chicken meat accounts for 10 to 15% of chicken produced, with less than 1% of the total production also being organic.” Australian Chicken Meat Federation statement, accessed at: www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=6
  2. “Over the life of the broiler flock only about 4% of chickens are lost. This is through natural causes or selective culling”, Australian Chicken Meat Federation statement, accessed at www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=6
  3. “The first harvest might occur as early as 30-35 days”, ibid
  4. Applying 4% industry mortality figure to the number of meat chickens slaughtered in Australia, July 2016-June 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017), data available at: www.abs.gov.au
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