How would you respond to critics who say that chicken production is not good for the environment because it is so intensive, uses so much water and produces so much waste?
While it is true that most commercial chicken meat production is farmed intensively, if anything, this helps to contribute to its very modest environmental impacts!
To explain why this is the case:
- One of the biggest determinants of how much energy is used and greenhouse gasses created, in the production of livestock products (like chicken and other meats and dairy products), is how efficiently the animals convert feed into edible product, as feed represents the biggest source of these impacts. Chickens are the most efficient converters of feed into meat of all land-based livestock species.
- The way we rear chickens today, where chickens are housed in large sheds or barns which are designed and ventilated so that they provide, as closely as is possible, their ideal climatic conditions, where food and water are laid on continuously and the birds are fed a diet which very precisely matches their ideal dietary nutrient profile for each stage of growth, all means that we can optimise the flocks’ growth and minimise the amount of feed the birds require to grow. In these farming systems we can also reduce the amount of energy that the chickens themselves need to put into maintaining their body temperature and in finding food and water.
- All this translates to more efficient use of feed, energy and water to produce a kg of chicken meat, and less greenhouse gas emissions created.
- The above also applies for free range production systems, where the chickens are also housed in large sheds, but additionally have access to an outdoor range area during daylight hours, once they have reached an age where they are relatively safe from predation and can better cope with variable outside temperatures.
- In more extensive systems, where the same level of control over climate and the quality and quantity of the diet cannot be achieved, chickens grow less efficiently, utilising more resources as a result.