Why is chicken so cheap?
The majority of the 1.1 billion chickens farmed each year in the UK for food are bred to grow so fast millions of them are dangerously heavy for their age, struggle to walk properly and can suffer from heart defects.
How fast do chickens grow to full size?
The majority of chickens raised in the UK are bred to grow very quickly so as producers can meet the demand for this now highly commoditised animal. The focus is on producing the greatest amount of meat in the shortest time. This is not the case on RSPCA Assured chicken farms.
How do chickens grow so fast?
Modern farmed chickens grow so fast due to genetic selection. Since the late 1950s, genetics companies have approximately halved the amount of time it takes for a meat chicken to achieve the same slaughter weight - at the rate of about one day shorter per year.
They are then raised in climate-controlled barns with unlimited food and water never far away. One particular result of this rapid growth is that these birds are inactive, particularly as they get older, so spend most of their time sitting or eating, gaining more weight until they reach slaughter weight.
What's wrong with cheap chicken?
The welfare problems associated with conventional chicken production doesn’t end with fast growth rates. The majority of cheap chickens don’t have enough space to move around freely, in fact, they are given less space per bird than an egg-laying hen kept in a cage. Their fast growth means that they are often unable to use any enrichment provided, such as perches.
Chickens that grow too fast can suffer severe welfare issues. As they become too heavy for their skeletons, they can struggle to walk properly and suffer from heart defects and other health problems.