That’s the number of chickens killed for human consumption.
That’s over 1.5 million per day.
That’s 551 million for the year.
4.5 percent of chicken meat was exported.
That left the equivalent of 526 million chickens.
To feed (at that time) around 22 million people.
That’s 24 chickens for every man, woman and child.
The industry predicts that the number will increase to 628 million in 2015/16.
Figure 1: Chicken meat production in Australia
That’s nearly 1,200 per minute.
Chickens are beautiful and intelligent animals.
Not that beauty and intelligence should determine whether or not an animal is killed for food.
There is no need.
Apart from the slaughter process, chickens grown for meat suffer immense cruelty during their short lives.
Here’s a short clip of a sanctuary hen teaching and protecting her chick.
If you care to watch, perhaps think of a human mother teaching and protecting her young child.
Chickens and other animals used for food deserve much better than the horrendous lives we impose upon them. They are not here to serve humans.
Besides, by channeling grains through animals who are then killed to be eaten, we are causing other humans to starve due to the waste involved in an inherently inefficient system. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported in 2013 that 842 million people in 2011-13 were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger.
After allowing for yield, 2.35 kilograms of grain needs to be fed to chickens to produce 1 kilogram of chicken meat. That’s equivalent to a loss of 57 percent.
The Australian Chicken Meat Federation has reported that chicken feed generally comprises 85-90 percent grains, such as wheat, sorghum, barley, oats, lupins, soybean meal, canola and other oilseed meals and grain legumes. The balance consists mainly of meat and bone meal and tallow.
We are also contributing massively to climate change and other environmental problems by causing far more resources (including land and fertiliser) to be used than would otherwise be required. As I have reported elsewhere, the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of chicken meat is many times that of plant-based alternatives of comparable nutritional value.
Bad for chickens.
Bad for people.
Bad for the planet.
If you haven’t done so already, isn’t it time to change?
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, “Australian Food Statistics 2011/12”, Table 2.4, Supply and use of Australian meats, http://www.daff.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/2269762/daff-foodstats-2011-12.pdf
Chicken’s feed conversion figure: Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Industry facts and figures, “Production Efficiency”, http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=4 (accessed 7th May, 2014).
Chicken meat yield from live weight: United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, “Agricultural Handbook No. 697”, June, 1992 (website updated 10 September, 2013), “Weights, Measures, and Conversion Factors for Agricultural Commodities and Their Products”, http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ah-agricultural-handbook/ah697.aspx#.U0ihR6Ikykw
Animals Australia “Broiler Chicken Fact Sheet”, http://www.animalsaustralia.org/factsheets/broiler_chickens.php (accessed 31 May, 2014)
Australian Chicken Meat Federation, “Growing Meat Chickens – Feed”, http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=6#Feed (accessed 31 May, 2014)
Mahony, P., “The Electric Cow”, 27 May, 2014, https://terrastendo.net/2014/05/27/the-electric-cow/
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013 “, http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/
Main image created by author.
Chicken meat production chart: Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Industry Facts and Figures, Chicken Meat Production in Australia, http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=4 (accessed 31 May, 2014)
Exerpt from “Peaceable Kingdom – the journey home” by Tribe of Heart, 2009, http://www.peaceablekingdomfilm.org/
Postscript 2nd June, 2014: Globally in 2011, we killed a staggering 110,000 chickens per minute for human consumption, or 58 billion in total. That’s around 105 times the number killed in Australia. Here is a list of slaughter numbers by animal, from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.