New findings reveal that the chicken Americans eat suffer unbearable pain during their short lives on factory farms. A new groundbreaking study concludes that the most widely produced breeds of chicken, including nearly all chicken consumed at restaurants and sold in grocery stores, endure suffering—even when raised in ideal conditions with careful management.
Commissioned by Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.), the country’s most rigorous animal welfare auditing program, and conducted by the University of Guelph, a prestigious, independent research university, the study tested 7,500 birds from 16 strains of chicken breeds over two years, measuring key welfare indicators, such as behavior, physiology, immunology, production, and meat quality, the first of its kind to do so.
The results are clear: conventional breeds of chicken raised for meat, termed “rapid growth” breeds due to selective breeding that causes the animals to reach market weight unnaturally fast, suffer muscle myopathies, deformities, poor foot health, and have trouble standing or walking. These findings were consistent among birds raised under controlled conditions (proper environment, food, space, etc.), though early results suggest that under more realistic, less ideal conditions, these breeds may perform even more poorly.
Leading food companies have been awaiting these results for the past two years. Companies such as Burger King, Chipotle, Campbell Soup, and Conagra, have already committed to move away from the chicken breeds the study associated with the worst health and quality problems. More than 185 food companies in the US alone have pledged to the switch by adopting the Better Chicken Commitment, a set of welfare standards that includes higher-welfare breeds.
While many companies have seen the writing on the wall for conventional bird strains, others, including McDonald’s, have dismissed the need to change breed in order to improve chicken welfare. McDonald’s, which purchases chicken from Tyson Foods, has commissioned a study to justify its own vague commitments on chicken welfare. Specifically, McDonald’s refuses to phase in higher-welfare chicken breeds and instead has committed to using chickens raised in better environments. This ignores the science that rapid growth genetics, not environmental conditions, is the primary threat to chicken welfare and meat quality. Their position stands apart from the more than 185 companies that have signed on to the Better Chicken Commitment.
With Guelph’s new study, the science is in—it is critical that we stop breeding chickens to grow so large, so quickly, that they suffer from debilitating injuries and pain. It’s time for the companies who say they care about animal welfare and corporate responsibility to back up their claims by switching to higher welfare chicken breeds.
Though this study is the most comprehensive to date, it builds on an existing body of research that finds birds bred to grow extremely fast suffer from heart attacks, bone disease, organ failure, immobility, and debilitating pain. Studies find slower-growing breeds have much less trouble walking and are healthier overall in comparison. This latest research further confirms that shifting away from conventional breeds is paramount to improving chicken welfare.
Sign this petition to tell the chicken industry to Stop Boiling Birds Alive
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