Chicken meat has the lowest environmental footprint of any meat. This is to a large extent due to the fact that chickens are highly efficient converters of feed into meat.
There have been numerous studies that have confirmed this. One major study conducted in the UK and funded by the Department of Food Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), compared the environmental burdens and resources used in production of beef, sheep meat, pig meat, poultry meat, eggs and milk. The Cranfield University study found that poultry meat production, in particular conventionally produced chicken (which represents the overwhelming majority of chicken sold in Australia), is the most environmentally efficient, followed by pig meat and, at some considerable distance sheep meat and beef.
Some summary data from the report is presented in the graphs on this page. The report itself is available here.
Environmental Management Systems (EMS) for the Chicken Meat Industry
The Australian chicken industry was one of the first Australian agricultural industries to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS) for its farmers. This was developed with funding from AgriFutures Australia and was first published in 2003, being updated and expanded in 2015.
The EMS provides chicken farmers with comprehensive advice and guidance to allow them to identify and manage the environmental risks and concerns posed by their farm. EMS training packages and opportunities have been made available to chicken farmers in the adoption and implementation of EMS on their farms, to raise environmental awareness and increase the skills and knowledge of chicken farmers in environmental management. The EMS is available here.
Research Into Environmental Management Issues
The AgriFutures Australia – Chicken Meat Program supports a number of projects aimed at assisting the industry to improve its environmental performance and to understand and better manage the industry’s impacts on the environment. See the AgriFutures website for details.
Impact of Drought on the Chicken Meat Industry
Growing of chicken is less directly impacted by drought than other agricultural endeavours. However water restrictions and increased grain prices do have an impact. Grain is the major component of the feed used to raise meat chickens and its price represents a significant proportion of the industry’s input costs. Therefore an increase in the grain prices has a major impact on the industry’s costs.