“Today’s chickens are true Frankenbirds – genetically modified to grow too fat too fast.”

“We’ve successfully bred most of the chicken out of the chicken.”
-Poultry Farmer

Intensive Confinement

The vast majority of chicken meat found in stores and restaurants comes from birds crowded by the thousands in dark sheds. In the US, more than 8 billion chickens spend their entire short lives on these factory farms, often suffering from respiratory ailments, crippling leg deformities, and even abuse before being trucked to slaughter.

In these cramped, windowless sheds, it is impossible for birds to engage in most natural behaviors, like perching or taking dust baths. Living in their own waste, birds in the chicken industry also suffer from respiratory ailments, ammonia burns, and eye irritations.

Rapid Growth

In the 1950s, it took 84 days to raise a five-pound chicken. Today, because of selective breeding and growth-promoting drugs, birds reach slaughter weight in just 45 days. If humans grew at the same rate as a factory-farmed chicken, we’d weigh 660 pounds by the time we turned two months old.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

In today’s chicken industry, broiler birds — a term for birds raised for meat — are killed when they still peep like chicks, yet they have already reached morbid obesity. Such fast-paced growth causes these animals to suffer from chronic health problems, including leg disorders and heart disease. Studies suggest that nearly a third of factory-farmed chickens have such severe leg deformities that they actually have trouble walking.

In 2017, a Compassion Over Killing undercover investigation exposed both egregious abuse and the painful effects of rapid growth in birds at a Virginia contract facility for Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest poultry producer.

Trapped inside their own morbidly obese bodies resulting from Tyson’s genetic manipulation, these baby birds grow so unnaturally large, so quickly, that many can’t even walk as their fragile, underdeveloped legs collapse under their weight. Genetic manipulation can also lead to other ailments, including heart and lung deformities. All of these birds are just babies – Those who survive these nightmarish conditions will be shipped out to slaughter at just 6 weeks old.

“If you want to marvel at how humans can mess with nature, look no further than the modern chicken.”

In the days leading up to slaughter, workers gather the bodies of dead birds and break lame birds’ necks, while the living sit in their own waste, often too weak to walk. John Webster, professor emeritus of animal husbandry at the University of Bristol, says that if the birds weren’t killed around six weeks of age, “They wouldn’t survive another two weeks.”

Painful Slaughter

There are no federal laws whatsoever protecting chickens used for food, from the moment they hatch until their slaughter. In this industry, animal welfare has taken a backseat to profits.

Birds are packed up and shipped out to slaughter without food, water, or shelter from extreme weather. At the slaughterhouse, they’re dumped onto conveyor belts and shackled upside down by their legs. Nearly all birds are conscious when their throats are cut. With as many as 8,400 birds slaughtered per hour in a single plant, mistakes are common, and many are still conscious as they’re dropped into tanks of scalding water.

One industry journal asks, “Is it more profitable to grow the biggest bird and have increased mortality due to heart attacks, ascites, and leg problems, or should birds be grown slower so that birds are smaller, but have fewer heart, lung and skeletal problems? … Simple calculations suggest that it is better to get the weight and ignore the mortality.”

A 2018 COK investigation inside an Amick Farms slaughterhouse operating under a dangerous
USDA high-speed slaughter program uncovered sickening abuse: birds being punched, shoved, and thrown down the recklessly fast-paced kill line; birds slowly drowning in the electrified stunning baths during equipment breakdowns; and even footage of “red birds,” with blood visible under their skin–a sign that they were scalded alive.

Most chicken slaughter plants in the US kill up to 140 birds each minute, or more than two birds every single second–and at this already staggering rate, suffering is rampant. Workers are forced to keep birds moving down the rapidly running kill line as quickly as possible, risking their own safety and animal welfare. At even higher speeds of up to 175 birds killed per minute, like at Amick Farms, these extreme dangers are only exacerbated.

Nutritional Quality

These genetically-manipulated animals routinely suffer from muscle disorders like white striping and wooden breast, which seriously decrease the nutritional value of their meat. Degenerative muscle disorders not only cause factory-farmed broiler birds to suffer chronic pain, but also result in an estimated $200 million in economic losses each year.

“The broiler industry has focused on boosting productivity through selection for fast-growth and other intensive production practices. These practices, however, have resulted in poor welfare for broilers, and a lower quality product for consumers; one that does not meet the expectations of a leaner, healthier protein.”

Generating billions of dollars in profit by churning out billions of pounds of chicken meat has always been the chicken industry’s top priority. But today’s consumers are demanding changes in the way animals raised and killed for food are treated, and the industry and food retailers are starting to take heed. Learn about recent progress for broiler birds.

Day-to-Day Abuse

In 2014, a Compassion Over Killing investigation of a North Carolina factory farm supplying Pilgrim’s Corp., the world’s second-largest chicken producer, revealed shocking day-to-day horrors, including birds crippled by painful leg deformities, sick or injured birds thrown around, and live birds dumped like trash into outdoor pits and left to die.

Inside Breeder Barns

In 2016, COK again exposed the chicken industry – this time with a never-before-seen look behind the closed doors of broiler breeder factory farms, filmed inside several Tyson Foods facilities. Footage exposed workers kicking and punching live birds, birds crushed to death by transport crates and run over by forklifts, and workers slamming birds into transport crates.

Because breeder birds must survive to sexual maturity – weeks longer than their rapidly growing bodies have been bred to endure–producers resort to restricting feed or even starving these birds. After COK’s investigation exposed the cruel practice of “boning“, in which a dull plastic rod is stabbed through the nostrils of young male breeder birds to restrict food intake, Tyson immediately announced an end to the practice. Urged by COK, two more top poultry producers quickly followed suit: Perdue Farms and Wayne Farms.

The world is changing for broiler birds. Become a part of the solution!

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