The study details the environmental, economic and sustainability implications of raising slower growing chickens, showing that it could lead to sharp increase in chicken prices and the use of water, air, fuel and land. In line with this, 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, 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.”
The environmental impact is an important component often left out of the equation when assessing a transition to a slower growing breed.
Consider this: if 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. According to the study, this would require the following extra resources:
Additional feed needed: Enough to fill 670,000 additional tractor trailers on the road per year, using millions more gallons of fuel annually.
Additional land needed: The additional land needed to grow the feed (corn and soybeans) would be 7.6 million acres per year.
Additional water needed: 1 billion additional gallons of water per year for the chickens to drink (excluding additional irrigation water that would be required to grow the additional feed).
Slower growing chickens will also stay on the farm longer, producing 28.5 billion additional pounds of manure annually.