New study finds most chicken meat sold globally comes from terrible animal suffering

By on September 14, 2020 with 15 Comments

The meat industry’s common practice of breeding broiler chickens to grow faster and bigger results in immense suffering and extremely poor quality of life for the animals, according to the largest study ever conducted on the topic.

The two-year study was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, for the Global Animal Partnership, one of North America’s largest food labeling programs. It included 7,500 chickens from 16 genetic strains commonly used by meat producers on both large and small farms worldwide. The overwhelming majority of chicken meat sold in the United States and globally comes from the faster-growing versions of the breeds tested.

Researchers found, among many animal welfare concerns, that the fast-growing strains of chickens had reduced mobility (as measured by the ability to walk over an obstacle, which other scientific studies have found is associated with the chickens being in pain). They were also more likely to have disproportionate heart and lung development and increased footpad lesions and burns caused by ammonia from the waste of other birds—a common problem when they are so tightly confined together.

In contrast, slower-growing strains of chickens tested in the same research trial had consistently better health and mobility. These birds take about two weeks longer to reach the same weight and are widely available for the chicken industry as an alternative to the faster-growing strains.

The 68 billion chickens slaughtered for their meat globally are supplied mostly by two chicken breeding companies, and researchers at the University of Guelph consulted them for the study. The researchers found that even when the chickens were raised according to the companies’ recommendations, the welfare of the birds remained poor. Were these birds to be raised under less exacting environmental and nutritional standards, the results for the welfare of the birds would be even worse.

While this study is important, none of these findings are shocking or new—we have long highlighted the extreme suffering of broiler chickens, and there have been many scientific studies that have arrived at very similar conclusions. A vast majority of chickens in commercial poultry production are bred to reach slaughter weight in as little as six weeks. Such selective breeding, preferred by the meat industry because it yields more breast meat, leaves young birds prone to painful physical and behavioral abnormalities.

In recent years, working with the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and other allied animal protection organizations, hundreds of large food and hospitality companies have pledged to address the poor welfare of chickens in their meat supply chain as part of their corporate social responsibility commitments. We urge these companies to take note of the G.A.P. findings and end the use of fast-growing chickens.

As consumers, you, too, can bring about positive change, by educating yourselves on the conditions under which the meat you put on your table is produced and by opting for more plant-based meals. There is too much suffering right now in chicken meat production, and each one of us can play a part in reducing it.

Farm Animals, Humane Society International

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ya no podemos permitir que más animalitos sigan sufriendo por parte de empresas que buscan enriquecerse ya no más violencia ni más injusticia

  2. Carlos Quero Valdés says:

    Un estudio a gran escala que vuelve a recordarnos la crueldad que hay detrás de la carne que ponemos en nuestra mesa, esa es la terrible realidad, y si creemos en la necesidad de construir una sociedad cada vez más consciente y empática no podemos olvidar estos temas, por el contrario, debemos contribuir con una honesta preocupación y una profunda reflexión que nos lleve a actuar en consecuencia, cambiando o reorientando nuestros hábitos y dándole al bienestar animal el lugar que se merece…

  3. Alexus Waris says:

    they are so cute. but people are killing them. i am starting a protest online when i get home just kidding but someone should stand up.

  4. Da Muller says:

    In response to Alexus Waris’ comment, “…someone should stand up.” Alexus, many, many have, and are, standing up for these helpless, innocent victims. As the blog states, “…none of these findings are shocking or new—we have long highlighted the extreme suffering of broiler chickens, and there have been many scientific studies that have arrived at very similar conclusions.”

    The vilest problem is that this extreme cruelty is LEGAL! Laws allow profiteers to profit from such evil, because society/consumers are not willing to stop consuming animal victims! And, whatever amount of vicious cruelty it takes to produce the greatest profit, is LEGAL! Because, after all, profit is the hierarchy over the life of a defenseless animal.

  5. Sharon Buck says:


  6. Debbie says:

    Please stop hurting chickens it’s enough they have to die. But let them be treated with respect.

  7. Manuela Lowe says:

    It’s time to become a vegetarian or vegan to put an end to this horrific, horror to these beautiful animals!!!

  8. Dottie Seelar says:

    I think it is disgusting for any animal to suffer pain for any reason and for them to have to do this in order to grow big enough to be slaughtered is ludicrist. What is wrong
    with our world? My father was a farmer and would never have hurt one of the animals he was raising for any reason. Why are people so greedy? All of you need to remember, you will have to meet the one who let you grow and see what your response will be. Good luck. I hope you come back as a chicken being raised for food.

  9. JoSmith says:

    Are you able to provide consumers the names of companies that process meat raised under the most humane conditions?
    We need to make informed decisions.

  10. Mary Joe Moloney says:

    We have to stop this mass production of pigs and chickens.. Also live exports of cattle and sheep. All are beyond inhumane!! If we don’t, we will get more pandemics due to lack of hygiene and overcrowding! Humanity’s greed may kill us all!!!!!

  11. marilyn boehm says:

    I admit that it’s been hard for me not to buy and eat chicken. We’ve reduced consumption to maybe one meal in every two weeks. We have also started looking into, and buying, plant based chicken. I do have a question, though. When we’ve bought chicken, it’s from a company that claims it is “free range.” I wonder if that’s a true status. Does anyone know about “Rocky’s” chicken sold in groceries?

  12. Sara d e l l ER says:

    They should not be allowed to be so cruel to the animals put them in little cages gross they are too gross

  13. The Chicken Man says:

    Them some good chickens! I LOVE chicken, and I believe that all chicken should be free and not DEAD or in a WAREHOUSE! Thank you!

  14. Roger says:

    I feel I need to do penance for all the chickens I heartlessly devoured when there were enough vegetarian food and nutrition drinks to supply my body with all it needed.

    It was heartbreaking for me to see chickens looking stifled and restrained in small cages.

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