Industrial Chicken

Pandemics Ahead: Number 2 in a series looking at the link between animal protein and global health disasters.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157) http://amzn.to/2yn7XrC

Chicken, once a distant third to cattle and pig carcass, is now the most popular animal flesh in the US. The average American eats almost 84 pounds of chicken a year, more than twice the amount eaten in 1970. In 2007, 8.9 billion chickens were raised and sold as food in the US, a remarkable jump of more than 1,400% since 1950.(996)

Chicken farms have mushroomed in size. In 2006, a typical broiler operation produced an average of 605,000 birds in vast buildings of 20,000 square feet or more. Meanwhile, the number of individual farms raising chickens for food has plummeted by 98% in just 50 years. The industrialization and consolidation of the chicken business in the US have concentrated production in the 'Broiler Belt.' In this area, which extends from eastern Texas through the southeastern US and north to Maryland and Delaware, chickens outnumber people by as much as 400 to 1.

The waste produced by these concentrated poultry operations raises serious concerns about treatment and disposal, particularly along the shores of the largest estuary system in the US, the Chesapeake Bay. The 523 million chickens produced each year in just Maryland and Delaware generate roughly 42 million cubic feet (1.2bn liter) of chicken waste, enough to fill the dome of the US Capitol about 50 times, or almost once a week.

Industrial chicken production is the fastest growing and most quickly transforming segment of the highly globalized livestock industry. In 2010, there were 20 billion chickens, making them the world’s most numerous bird species By 2020, 124 million tonnes (273 billion lb) of chicken will be produced globally – a spike of 25% in just 10 years.

China’s production enlargement will be highest, a 37% upsurge compared to 2010. Brazil will be close behind at 28%. Below-average growth is forecast for the USA, at 16%, and the EU, at 4%.(997) The most striking climb in demand for chicken will take place in South Asia, where it is expected to jump greater than seven-fold by 2050. This extraordinary expansion is fueled by demand in India, where consumption is expected to climb nearly ten-fold, from 1.05mt to 9.92mt (2.3 billion to 21.8 billion lb) a year.

According to the FAO, this is due to rising per capita consumption rather than the growing human population. Most growth in demand comes from urban areas - double that in rural regions. Nevertheless, animal consumption in India is relatively small and per person it is less than one-tenth of the quantity consumed in China.

People prefer chicken to other types of carcass for many reasons, such as lower price and cultural preference. Producing chicken is cheaper than other types of domesticates, although disease and culling are widespread and growing. The cost of chicken production will rise along with feed, but chickens are more efficient feed converters than other livestock.

Unlike cow carcass and pig flesh, there are few religious or cultural limitations to eating chicken. Plus, food animal consumption is expected to rise in countries where people culturally prefer eating chicken. As a result, production facilities and processing will become increasingly concentrated with attendant panzootic risks.

In December 2012, Chinese national television exposed the “instant chicken” scandal associated with Liuhe, one of the country’s top chicken producers. Liuhe is a subsidiary of New Hope, the biggest feed company in China and one of the largest in the world. As many as 18 antibiotics were discovered in “cocktails” mixed into the feed to accelerate the growth of broilers. These birds could grow from 30 grams (1 oz) to 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) in a matter of 40 days.

Liuhe is one of KFC’s major suppliers. Repercussions from the scandal forced Yum Brands, KFC’s parent company, to admit that excessive drug residues had been observed in “some” chicken supplied by Liuhe in 2010. The scandal caused widespread outrage in the Chinese media, and KFC’s sales plunged. KFC responded by exerting further controls over its supply chain. The animal-processing company now owns all the inputs, controls the land and water resources, and employs the workers who produce the chickens, essentially turning farms into factories.

China is intensifying its chicken production, despite the widespread emergence of avian flu. First detected in 1996 in farmed geese in southern China, this disease has since spread to 60 countries. Since 2004, China has reported avian flu outbreaks every year except 2011.

Chapter 27: PANZOOTIC, page 257

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