Slow growing chicken less sustainable

A new report from the National Chicken Council says slow growing chickens have negative sustainability impacts.

Tom Super with the National Chicken Council tells Brownfield several food companies and restaurants including Whole Foods and Panera have announced their commitment to source only slower growing broiler chickens as a way to improve the birds’ welfare, decreasing injuries and antibiotic use.  He says doing so would have a tremendous impact on the environment and cost of production, but more research is needed to clarify the benefits to animal welfare.  “All of the current measureable data that we have livability, disease, condemnation, digestive and leg health – reflect that our flock is as healthy as it has ever been. Now, if we slowed down the growth rate, would it improve on that progress?  We don’t know.  There’s not a lot of great research here in the U.S. to document that.”

The report says if one-third of broiler chickens switched to a slower growing breed, there would be an additional 1.5 billion more birds needed annually to produce the same amount of meat and they would require an additional 7.6 million acres to grow feed, one billion additional gallons of water annually and produce 28.5 billion additional pounds of manure each year.

The council is calling for more animal welfare research and plans to update its Broiler Welfare Guidelines this year.

“Slow growing” has been defined as equal to or less than 50 grams of weight gained per chicken per day compared to the current industry average of 61 grains per day and take about two weeks longer to reach maturity on average.

AUDIO: Interview with Tom Super

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