Britain's biggest supermarket recently announced the reduction in the price of budget chickens.
Animal welfare and farming groups have criticised the supermarket giant Tesco for cutting the retail price of its standard whole chicken to £1.99. The store says bringing down the price of a bird from £3.30 will benefit "shoppers on a budget." -- BBCThis news came on the same day as a report on the health of broiler chickens was released by Bristol University:
The study found that at an average age of 40 days, over 27.6 per cent of birds showed poor locomotion and 3.3 per cent were almost unable to walk. The high prevalence of poor locomotion occurred despite culling policies designed to remove severely lame birds from flocks.This news comes in spite of a recent high profile campaign led by celebrity chefs to promote the issue.
The welfare implications of this study are profound. Worldwide approximately 20 billion broilers are reared within similar husbandry systems that are biased towards economics of production and detrimental to poultry welfare." -- Leg disorders in broiler chickens: prevalence, risk factors and prevention
Few people know about the conditions suffered by most broiler chickens - those reared for meat.Let us not forget that intensive chicken farming also has an environmental as well as a human health impact (PDF).
95% of the chicken eaten in the UK has been intensively farmed.
Farmers are under pressure to produce poultry as quickly and cheaply as possible - which means birds live short lives, in cramped conditions, without ever seeing natural daylight. They commonly develop severe injuries and disabilities, associated with unnaturally fast weight gain and restricted movement." -- Chicken Out Campaign
While a small number of food poisoning incidents are caused by plant foods (particularly pathogens spread in salads kept above refrigerator temperature and also poisonous fungi), the vast majority are attributable to animal products. Broiler chickens are the most potent source." -- The global benefits of eating less meat (PDF)Poultry production is also estimated to produce 1.1% of total UK CO2 emissions.
Let us add up the costs of these 'cheap' chickens. There is an animal welfare cost. A human health cost. An environmental cost. And last but not least, a high rate of suicide amongst farmers who cannot even negotiate a price which covers the cost of production from the food retailers.
Is it really worth it?