Growing multitudes of birds are being packed into mass meat production facilities because High Street retailers want smaller, younger chickens to sell to customers at lower prices. As many as 19 chickens or more are being squeezed into every square metre of floor space, which some experts say will cause them pain and stress.
Farmers and supermarkets, however, deny that their increasingly intensive production methods are cruel. They point out that animal welfare standards conform to the food industry’s assurance scheme and are much better than they used to be.
But according to Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University in London and a former government advisor, chickens have the most miserable lives on farms. “Probably no animal farmed intensively on earth has a shorter, more captive or controlled life than the broiler chicken,” he said.
“A luxury item six decades ago has become routine tasteless, so-called meat today. And now we witness this new shift to even shorter lives, driven by market changes.”