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“Broiler Chicken” in a factory farm          Megan at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge


In the United States, more than 8.5 billion chickens are raised and killed for meat each year.[1] Prior to industrial models of chicken production, eggs and meat came from one breed of chicken. The layer hens were killed for meat once their egg production dwindled. Then, around the 1950’s “broiler chickens” and “layer chickens” began to be bred separately for specific traits. “Layers” were designed to make eggs, and “broilers” were designed to make flesh.

“Broiler chickens” are now modified to grow several times faster and much larger than their ancestors. Daily growth rates have increased between 300 and 400 percent over the past 50 years.[2] [3] At only 37 days young, baby birds—still soft and peeping—have adult bodies that weigh heavily on their immature skeletons and cause many of them to become completely immobilized. If a human grew at the same rate as a chicken bred for meat, they would weigh 349 lbs by the age of two. With the increased interest in white breast meat, chickens have been bred selectively to grow larger breasts, which cause them to lean over and drag their heavy breasts on the ground. “Rapid growth” unsurprisingly leads to further joint damage, poor bone health, metabolic disorders, chest sores, and lameness.[4]

Because of selective breeding, genetic manipulation, and extreme drug regimens, these birds suffer and die in large numbers. Each year in the US, over 90 million birds are killed or die from leg problems, and an estimated one to four percent (85,000,000 to 340,000,000) die from heart attacks associated with their rapid growth. Overcrowding, artificial lighting and poor air quality (including high concentrations of ammonia) are additional factors leading to health and welfare problems.[5] Those who survive to 42 days of age are then killed for meat.

At least ninety-five percent of chicken meat comes from factory farms.[6] But even on smaller farms most chickens suffer inhumane conditions and face major problems affecting their welfare. As long as animals are viewed as commodities to be used by humans, their needs and interests will never out-weigh gain in profit by farmers of all kinds.


At Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge we strive to promote alternatives to these cruel practices. We are committed to answering questions, providing individual support, and helping people make shifts in their everyday choices. Contact us with questions about how you can work to reduce and eliminate chicken from your diet.

 Learn more about reducing your chicken consumption on our website.




[1] The Humane Society of the United States (2013, December). An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Chicken Industry

[2] ibid

[3] Safran-Foer, J. (2009). Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company. p. 48.

[4] The Humane Society of the United States (2013, December).

[5] Ibid

[6] http://woodstocksanctuary.org/learn-3/factory-farmed-animals/chickens-for-meat/