A pretty astounding figure when you first read it, but when you think about how cheap chicken meat is to buy and how widely available – it’s not that surprising that the average Australian eats this much each year.
For me, I really haven’t known any different but I’m told chicken meat was once a special treat in Australian households, reserved for Sunday roasts and special occasions. But now around 490 million chickens are produced and processed for chicken meat each year in Australia. It’s now a cheap and accessible meat and features daily on the table in many Australians homes.
Meat chickens (also known as broilers) are actually quite different from their egg-laying counterparts as are the welfare problems they face.
Most meat chickens are farmed indoors, in conventional systems that may house up to 60,000 birds in a single shed. The birds may be kept in dim light for 23 hours a day to discourage movement and increase food intake, which basically makes them very meaty very quickly.
The majority of meat chickens in Australia live in barren environments with no access to the outdoors and no possibility for behavioural stimulation. The RSPCA has major concerns about the welfare of chickens farmed in conventional systems and recommends avoiding chicken meat that isn’t Free Range.
Like eggs, be wary of products labeled with terms like grain fed, corn-fed and farm fresh. Terms like this are often used to imply better animal welfare but it generally isn’t the case.
If you’re specifically seeking an animal welfare friendly alternative then make sure your chicken is certified free-range.
We hope to have RSPCA Approved chicken meat in supermarkets soon – so if you’re keen to purchase higher welfare chicken watch this space!