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  • Chickens are the most populous bird on the planet.

  • There are 23 billion of them at any given time.

  • That's 10 times more than any other bird.

  • It's an astonishing achievement for a bird that originated as a small, wild, jungle bird in South East Asia.

  • It's by far the fastest growing meat product but pound for pound, the price of chicken has fallen sharply.

  • How as this happened?

  • This farm is at the forefront of a technology revolution that has drastically changed chicken farming.

  • It's run by David Speller.

  • He's pioneered the use of CCTV and CO2 monitors in chicken sheds.

  • Along with his own farm, he works as a consultant overseeing the raising of around three million chickens in the UK.

  • You can't get away from the scale.

  • There are 45,000 birds in this barn managed by one computer.

  • Two men will run 200,000 birds for me.

  • Chickens were first domesticated over 8,000 years ago.

  • But it wasn't until the 1940's that major efforts were made to create a super breed.

  • The chicken-of-tomorrow competition in America would change chickens forever.

  • The aim of that competition was to try and encourage the development of a fast growing chicken that could provide a larger amount of protein at an affordable cost.

  • The success of the contest rose conclusively that it is possible to breed chickens with superior meat-type characteristics.

  • Today, the life cycle of broilers, chickens that are bred purely for their meat, is entirely pre ordained.

  • They grow faster and bigger than ever before.

  • And they can only live supported by human technology.

  • Modern industrialized farming requires the use of artificial light, artificial temperature, the whole life of these birds is effectively controlled through technology.

  • Chickens have changed so quickly they are now four times the size they were in the 1950's.

  • 90,000 chicks at a time get delivered.

  • It's our job to nurture them and farm them up to a bird that's then ready to go back to processing.

  • That starts around day 34, the biggest birds for us off of this farm are around 39 days of age.

  • Then we have a really frantic seven to ten days to clean everywhere, get it all nice and warm and fresh ready for the next batch of chicks.

  • We do that seven and a half, eight times a year.

  • This efficiency is passed on to the consumer.

  • It's good value, I don't like referring to it as cheap.

  • These are not cheap, these are animals.

  • They have a worth, but it is great value, it's uniform.

  • It's healthy for you and consumers love it!

  • The reality of farming any animal for meat is you take it to its optimal place and then you take it to turn it to human consumption.

  • These birds, 38, 39 days is as far as we want to take them for the product that we want to buy.

  • A barn yard chicken can live up to 10 years, showing the huge evolution of change the broilers have undergone.

  • But selective breeding on a global scale comes at a cost.

  • If the chickens live beyond their planned life, they develop huge medical problems.

  • These birds can't then sustain that rapid weight growth beyond the points of which they're normally slaughtered.

  • Because their bodies can't cope with it and also puts huge amounts of pressure on their internal organs as well.

  • And there are concerns the chicken industry is relying on an increasingly small gene pool.

  • -Pretty chicks? -Yes Sir.

  • Alike as two peas in a pod.

  • If all of these chickens have the same genetics, they're all fed the same food, they're actually very vulnerable to diseases that come in.

  • Because they're all identical so if one bird is effected all the birds will be effected.

  • Keeping chickens in battery cages was banned in the EU in 2012.

  • But some people want to create better lives for broiler chickens.

  • Free range birds have more access to open air runs, while organic chickens are typically free from antibiotics, hormones, and other synthetic chemicals.

  • Organic chickens get to live the longest.

  • 81 days compared to intensively reared birds which live between 35 and 40 days.

  • Free range chickens get the most access to open air runs.

  • But when it comes to living space, organic and free range fair far better than intensively reared birds where as many as 17 adult birds live in a single square meter.

  • Organic farming might offer animals a greater quality of life but consumers are largely driven by cost.

  • And in an average UK supermarket, an intensively reared chicken costs several times less than it's free range or organic cousins.

  • You are talking significant cost difference and I think that's why we see the demand is not there.

  • If the demand was there we'd all be doing it.

  • Over 95% of broiler chickens are intensively reared in the UK.

  • Organic and free range chickens make up the rest.

  • So what's key for me in being a farmer of chicken is to understand what consumer wants to buy.

  • We are purely market driven.

  • For as long as shoppers want cheap and plentiful chicken, they will continue to be bred evermore intensively.

Chickens are the most populous bird on the planet.

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B1 US chicken organic bird farming farm range

Why Is Chicken So Cheap? | The Economist

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    Liang Chen posted on 2019/04/01
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