Phone:

E-mail:
02 9929 4077

acmf@chicken.org.au



Level 7, 122 Walker Street
NORTH SYDNEY
PO Box 579, North Sydney NSW 2059


Phone:

Fax:

E-mail:

02 9929 4077

02 9925 0627

acmf@chicken.org.au

ABN 24 077 883 026

 

General Questions

  1. Are Australian chickens kept in cages?
  2. Are chickens fed hormones in Australia?
  3. Why do many people wrongly believe that chickens are fed hormones?
  4. Does Australia import poultry meat?
  5. Are chickens genetically modified?
  6. Are chickens fed GM feed?
  7. Why do chickens grow so quickly?
  8. How do you know chicken is properly cooked?
  9. Why is it important to cook chicken?
  10. How many meat chickens are produced in Australia?
  11. How are antibiotics used?
  12. What is the difference between free range chickens, organic chickens and conventionally farmed commercial meat chickens?
  13. Does free range mean that chickens live outside during their whole life?
  14. Do free range chickens have access to water and feed while outside of the shed?
  15. I am thinking of growing my own poultry or keeping some laying hens…where can I buy day old chickens or pullets?
  16. What is Halal?
  17. Where can I purchase Halal chicken meat?
  18. What is required for chicken meat to be Halal?
  19. How is this different from the non-Halal process?
  20. Is all Halal chicken meat sold as Halal certified chicken meat?
  21. Why do Australian chicken meat processors produce Halal certified products?
  22. Does the customer pay more because of the Halal requirements?
  23. Do you need to have a rooster for chickens to lay eggs?
  24. What are the chickens fed?
  25. What are the main pests and diseases that may affect meat chickens?
  26. Why are some chickens a lot larger or a lot smaller than others?
  27. One of my friends is extremely allergic to some antibiotics, would it be ok for her to eat a chicken which has been given antibiotics?
  28. What is selective breeding?

  1. Are Australian chickens kept in cages?
    Australian meat chickens are not kept in cages. They are raised in large sheds that are environmentally controlled.
     
  2. Are chickens fed hormones in Australia?
    Australian chickens are not fed hormones. Nor are they administered hormones in any other way. Their rapid growth occurs naturally due to selective breeding and optimal nutrition. Independent tests by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, as part of the National Residue Survey, confirm that Australian chicken meat is free of added hormones.
     
  3. Why do many people wrongly believe that chickens are fed hormones?
    We believe that one reason might be that people note that the chickens sold these days in supermarkets, butcher shops and chicken shops are much bigger than what they may recall them to have been 20 or 30 years ago. They may wrongly conclude that this must be the result of some unnatural intervention. The actual reason for this increased growth rate and size is the ongoing extensive selective breeding programs that have been adopted by the industry over the past 50 years, which aim for not only faster growing birds but also for healthier and more disease resistant chickens.
     
  4. Does Australia import chicken meat?
    Almost all chicken meat consumed in Australia is grown domestically. To protect the local birds from diseases, raw chicken meat can only be imported under strict protocols, which to date poultry producers in other countries have been unable to meet. Some cooked chicken meat, mainly as an ingredient to processed food (e.g. canned chicken, soups or animal food), may be imported but only if the chicken meat is processed in accordance with the required protocols (prolonged exposure to high temperatures) to ensure that there is no unacceptable risk to Australian poultry or consumers. A small amount of chicken meat is imported from New Zealand.
     
  5. Are chickens genetically modified?
    Chickens are not genetically engineered or modified. Improvements in their growth, feed conversion efficiency, tenderness and other characteristics are entirely due to traditional cross-breeding and selective breeding techniques (read more about selective breeding by clicking here).
     
  6. Are chickens fed GM feed?
    Soya bean meal, which provides an important source of protein and amino acids in the chicken diet, is not available in sufficient quantities in Australia and has to be imported. Much of the world’s soya bean production is genetically modified and in countries such as the US, traditional soya bean meal becomes mixed with genetically modified meal during processing, storage and distribution. Non-GM soya bean meal can no longer be sourced in sufficient quantities to meet the poultry industry's needs and thus feed is likely to contain GM soya bean meal.
     
  7. Why do chickens grow so quickly?
    Meat chickens, also known as broilers, have been selectively bred over the past 60 years for growth rate and to be highly efficient at transforming feed into meat (Read more ...). This is why they reach their optimal market weight and quality much more quickly than the strains of chickens from which they were originally derived.

    In this respect modern meat chickens are also quite different from egg chickens (or layers). Chickens used in egg farms are selectively bred for their capacity to produce eggs. For this reason, the meat chickens grow much more quickly and to a larger size than layers. See also this page.
     
  8. How do you know chicken is properly cooked?
    Chicken should always be thoroughly cooked. While cooking to a temperature of 72 degrees should be sufficient, we recommend that, to be sure, you should cook chicken to about 82 degrees at its core. The amount of time you need to cook chicken of course depends upon the type of cut and how big it is, although a good rule of thumb is you cook it for about an hour per kilo. A simple way to get a good indication of whether it has been cooked enough is to stick a fork into the thickest part of the meat – the juice that comes out should be clear; furthermore there should be no pink coloured meat left right through the thickest part.
     
  9. Why is it important to cook chicken?
    All raw meat and many other foods contain bacteria and most are harmless. However, some of these bacteria, when ingested in sufficient quantities, can produce food poisoning. The good news is that all these organisms are very easily killed by normal cooking temperatures. Therefore, if you cook chicken properly and follow basic hygienic food handling practices in the kitchen then the risk is removed.
     
  10. How many meat chickens are produced in Australia?
    An annual total of about 550 million chickens (in 2011, ABARES) are produced and processed for chicken meat. This equates to more than 1010 million kg of chicken meat (in 2011, ABARES). Consumption (and production) of chicken meat has steadily increased over the past 50 years to now reach about 43.3kg per annum and person (in 2011, ABARES), substantially greater than the consumption of red meat.
     
  11. How are antibiotics used?
    Antibiotics are important to ensure the health of chickens. Only antibiotics approved by Australia’s regulatory authorities and administered in accordance with strict guidelines are used. For details on the industry’s antibiotics policy, please see our page on Antibiotics. The National Residue Survey undertaken annually by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry provides consumers with the assurance that no antibiotic residues are found in chicken meat.
     
  12. What is the difference between free range chickens, organic chickens and conventionally farmed commercial meat chickens?
    As the name indicates, free range chickens are allowed access to an outside run in which they can freely range outside their sheds during the day. Organic chickens are fed on diets prepared from ingredients that are not treated with insecticides or pesticides. In addition, space allowances are higher, and only chickens that have not been given antibiotics at any stage during their life should be sold under the free range or the organic labels. For more information, you may wish to consult the website of the specific industry organisations, for example Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Ltd (FREPA) and the Organic Federation of Australia.
     
  13. Does free range mean that chickens live outside during their whole life?
    No.  Free range chickens, regardless of the standard that is being used, will spend the first two to three weeks until they are fully feathered inside a chicken shed.  Once they are fully feathered, they are given access to an outside range during the daylight hours.  They spend the night inside the chicken shed, protected from predators.  During the day, not all chickens are outside at all times.  In particular if the weather is wet or very hot, they may prefer spending time inside.  Also, water and feed is only made available inside for biosecurity reasons (see also next question).
     
  14. Do free range chickens have access to water and feed while outside of the shed?
    No, access to water and feed is only available at all times inside the shed and no feed or water is offered outside on the range because it would attract wild birds and rodents, which are a major source of bacteria and viruses that could affect the health of the birds.
     
  15. I am thinking of growing my own poultry or keeping some laying hens…where can I buy day old chickens or pullets?
    The ACMF does not keep information on suppliers of day old stock or pullets for non-commercial production, so we will be unable to help you with your enquiry. However, we offer the following suggestions.

    If you are interested in keeping or breeding fancy or exhibition poultry (eg particular breeds of chicken), it is suggested that you contact the Royal Agricultural Society in your State or Territory for a contact with the fancy poultry or exhibition poultry breeders association in your area.

    If you are interested in obtaining some commercial strains of poultry for your own consumption or eggs, then we suggest that you look in the classified section of your region or state’s weekly rural newspaper or magazine (eg The Land), under ‘Poultry’ for suppliers of day old chickens and pullets.

    Before you embark upon keeping your own poultry, it may be advisable to check with your local Council to make sure there are no regulations or restrictions placed on the keeping of poultry in your area. It is also recommended that you speak with your state Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture about sensible precautions to take to protect and monitor the health of your flock.
     
  16. What is Halal?
    Halal refers to food that is prepared in a way that makes it fit for consumption by Muslims.
     
  17. Where can I purchase Halal chicken meat?
    Specialty butchers, particularly in areas where there is a significant Muslim population, sell Halal certified chicken meat.
     
  18. What is required for chicken meat to be Halal?
    The chicken must be processed in a manner that is consistent with the rules of the Muslim faith, which requires that:
    1. a prayer is spoken at the beginning of the day;
    2. the person supervising the slaughtering process must be of Muslim faith; and
    3. the facility has to be accredited by the local Muslim cleric.
     
  19. How is this different from the non-Halal process?
    The only differences are the three points listed above. A person observing the actual process would be unable to distinguish one from the other and staffing levels are identical.
     
  20. Is all Halal chicken meat sold as Halal certified chicken meat?
    Because the physical process is the same for both Halal and non-Halal products and there is no additional cost involved, approved processing plants may process a whole day’s birds observing the Halal requirements, with only some of the product being required to be Halal certified.
     
  21. Why do Australian chicken meat processors produce Halal certified products?
    There is demand from both the local community as well as from some export markets (and for example airline meals) that Australian processors meet by having some of their facilities accredited for Halal slaughter.
     
  22. Does the customer pay more because of the Halal requirements?
    No. To meet Halal requirements imposes minimal additional costs on processors which are more than compensated for by the additional market that can be serviced. Consequently, neither the Muslim customer buying certified Halal products nor the customer buying product that is not certified Halal is paying any more for chicken meat.
  23. Do you need to have a rooster for chickens to lay eggs?
    No, you do not need a rooster for a hen to produce eggs. A hen will lay (unfertilised) eggs irrespective of whether there is a rooster on the scene or not. All commercial eggs you buy in the supermarket (or any other retail outlet) have been produced this way ie they are all unfertilized eggs. A hen produces the same number of eggs if there is no rooster around than she would if there were a rooster around.

    However, the only way you can get an embryo growing in an egg (and chickens hatched from an egg) is to have the hen’s ovum fertilized by sperm from a rooster while it is in the hen’s shell gland. To produce fertile eggs from which you can hatch chicks, therefore, you need a rooster.

  24. What are the chickens fed?

    • Feed is made up of 85-90% grains, such as wheat, sorghum, barley, oats, lupins, soybean meal, canola and other oilseed meals and grain legumes.
    • Hormones are not added to chicken feed or administered to commercial meat chickens or breeders in Australia. Hormone supplementation is a practice that has been banned internationally for forty years. The ban is supported by the Australian Chicken Meat Federation (see ACMF hormone policy).
    • Meat chicken diets are formulated to strict nutritional standards. A rough guide to the specifications of some of the key nutrients needed by a growing meat chicken is:
      Nutrient Specification of a Broiler Diet (Grower)
       
      Energy
      13 MJ/kg
      Crude Protein
      20.5%
      Lysine (digestible)
      1.1%
      Total sulphur amino acids (digestible)
      0.7%
      Calcium
      0.9%
      Phosphorous (available)
      0.4%
      Sodium
      0.2%
      Chloride
      0.2%
    • Diets fed to meat chickens in the south eastern states will predominantly be based on wheat, whereas sorghum provides a greater contribution to the diet of meat chickens in Queensland.
    • Generally speaking, cereal grains provide the energy component of the diet
    • soybean meal, canola meal and meat and bone meal primarily provide the protein.
    • Vegetable oils or animal fats (such as tallow) might be included in the diet to provide additional energy.
    • Meat chickens have very specific requirements for particular amino acids, which are the ‘building blocks’ of proteins. The amino acids lysine and methionine are also added to diets because they are generally not present in sufficient amounts in the grains and protein sources to meet the nutritional needs of the birds.
    • Meat chicken diets are also fortified with additional vitamins and minerals and, where necessary, other essential amino acids to ensure that the broilers’ very precise requirements for these nutrients are met.

      A ‘typical’ broiler feed might look something like the following.

      Composition of a Typical Broiler Feed
      %
      Wheat
      45.0
      Sorghum
      25.0
      Soyabean Meal
      12.0
      Canola Meal
      8.0
      Meat & Bone Meal
      7.0
      Tallow
      2.0
      Lysine
      0.3
      Methionine
      0.2
      Vitamins & Trace Minerals
      0.5
      TOTAL
      100
       
    • As the chicks grow, the composition and form of the feed is changed to match their changing nutritional needs and increasing mouth size.
    • Almost all broiler feed used in Australia these days is steam pelleted (in crumble form, in the case of baby chick feeds). Ingredients are ground, mixed together, steam conditioned and compressed into beak sized, well-formed pellets.
    • >Some companies include whole grain mixed with pellets.
  25. What are the main pests and diseases that may affect meat chickens?
    There are many diseases that can affect chickens. See for example http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=6#KeepingHealthy for details. Also relevant is http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=41
     
  26. Why are some chickens a lot larger or a lot smaller than others?
    Two answers to this one:
    1. If you are referring to the different sizes sold in supermarkets or by delis then the answer is that the small ones are younger and not yet fully grown.
    2. If you are thinking of the picture sequence shown by Channel 9’s Today Tonight program on several occasions where one chicken grows into a large bird within six weeks and the other is half the size at the same age then the answer is: both are chickens but they are different breeds. It's like a poodle and a German shepherd, both dogs, but very different.  In the example quoted, the small bird is a layer bird that is a chicken selected over many years for its egg production and not its ability to grow well and quickly and the larger bird would be one of our commercial meat chicken breeds which are not selected for their ability to produce lots of eggs but for their ability to turn feed into good quality meat
  27. One of my friends is extremely allergic to some antibiotics, would it be ok for her to eat a chicken which has been given antibiotics?
    There is quite a bit of information on our website on antibiotics use in chicken production. Go to http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=14&issue=7 for details.  In a nutshell, antibiotics are used to treat or prevent disease but regular independent testing shows that there are no antibiotics residues found in chicken meat (http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=27).  The use of antibiotics is strictly regulated and administration is under veterinary supervision.  The regulations ensure that antibiotics that could find their way into the meat are not used or only used at an early stage of the bird’s life so that there is sufficient time for any residue to be eliminated.  Given that no residues are found in chicken meat, even people with allergies to certain antibiotics do not have to worry at all.
  28. What is selective breeding?
    Traditional breeding techniques, also called selective breeding, essentially select the birds with the most desirable traits (genetic characteristics) as parents for the next generation and repeating this generation after generation (there are about 50 chicken generations to every human generation so that the past 50 years of commercial breeding are equivalent to over 2000 years of human lives).

    This simple but effective mechanism has allowed agricultural industries (grains, horticulture, dairy, meat etc) to improve their products and their productivity.  Poultry is no different from the other sectors in this respect although the process is more effective because of the greater control over it, the international approach and the faster generations. Read more ...

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