Temple Grandin on Chickens and Other Poultry

I recently finished Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. She discusses what different types of animals need to be happy, and how to improve the living conditions of pets, livestock, zoo animals, and wildlife. Below are some of her thoughts on chickens and other poultry. Read cow thoughts here, and pig thoughts here.

Chickens and Other Poultry

  • The industry has created chickens that have chronic pain in order to get birds that grow at the far outer limits of what is biologically possible… The other problem is that modern broiler chickens have been bred to have stupendous appetites so they’ll grow super-fast and reach market weight as soon as possible… These chickens have to be kept on a strict diet just to maintain normal weight… These birds have low welfare no matter what you do. If you let them eat all they want, they have bad welfare and if you don’t let them eat all they want, they also have bad welfare… The industry is going to have to breed parent stock with smaller appetites. There’s no other way to fix the problem. (p. 219)
  • Today, only a handful of companies provide all of the commercial layers and broilers around the world, which has greatly narrowed the gene pool. This has created a risky situation because genetically similar animals are vulnerable to the same diseases. (p. 222)
  • How to improve chicken welfare: The first thing you have to do is raise consciousness. (p. 222)
  • Wendy’s is the one chain that has a shot at changing the US chicken industry because they buy chicken from over twenty-seven slaughter plant complexes instead of only four or five because they use standard cuts of chicken. Wendy’s can throw a plant off the approved supplier list and still have enough chicken to supply their restaurants. They’re doing an excellent job auditing the handling at their suppliers. (p. 226)
  • Unfortunately, even when you combine Wendy’s twenty-seven plants with the plants supplying Burger King and McDonald’s, which also audit their suppliers for welfare, you’re still auditing only 30 percent of the poultry complexes compared to 90 percent of the beef industry. That’s not enough. The other 70 percent of the plants sell to supermarkets that either do not audit or have auditing programs that are less strict. (p. 227)
  • The question is: Do chickens need to do natural, hard-wired behaviors in order to have good welfare? Or can they live happily without some of these behaviors? (p. 231)
  • Chickens may not have as strong a need for novelty as other animals. If that’s true, it’s all the more reason for the industry to give chickens simple enrichments like string devices. A little goes a long way with a chicken. Laying hens have the poorest welfare of all the farm animals. If we can make their lives better by giving them simple pleasures inside their cages and pens, we have to do it.

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