The truth about caged chickens


The truth about caged Chickens

Cheap meat usually comes at a price – one paid by the farm animals and often the environment too, you can make a difference by choosing wisely before you spend your money. “Approximately 900 million chickens are reared for meat in the UK each year and a staggering 86 million are wasted” – Dr Tracey Jones, Compassion’s Director of Food Business

When chickens are kept in cages, it is brutal and so far away from their natural behaviour, imagine living your whole life squashed in an A4 (size of printer paper) size cage, having your feathers plucked out by your neighbours because they are so bored, having your beak chopped off to stop you pecking, standing on wire mesh which hurts your feet and breathing in 30,000 other chickens poo, dust and urine. Not nice at all.

Not only are the conditions bad for hens, it’s even worse if you are born a male chick.

The vegetarian society says “All egg production systems involve the disposal of unwanted male chicks because they cannot be used in the industry. Male chicks from selectively bred egg-laying strains are not suitable for meat production and so are killed at 1-3 days old. It is estimated that around 30 million male chicks are destroyed annually by a number of permitted methods. These include the use of mechanical apparatus producing immediate death (such as a homogeniser which minces up chicks alive), exposure to gas mixtures, dislocation of the neck, decapitation, neck-breaking or suffocation. A limited number of the dead chicks are used as low-priced animal feed-stuff for zoos and wildlife parks, with the remainder usually going to landfill”

All EU eggs have to be labelled for identification, although local farms where you can go and have a look at the conditions the chickens live in would be proffered, especially when you read case like this one about an RSPCA freedom food farm

So what should you do?

Only by cage-free: organic, free-range or barn eggs.

Check the contents of food containing eggs to make sure they are cage-free; remember about hidden ingredients like eggs in cakes etc

Ask your local supermarket to stock only cage-free eggs. Some have already opted to go ‘cage-free’. If yours hasn’t, ask them why. Speak to the manager and ask them to stock more organic, free-range chickens and egg

Contact your MP and your local paper, radio and TV station to explain why hens suffer in cages and how free-range farms give hens a better quality of life

In free range systems, the chickens are given access to an outdoor range during the daytime and sheds where they are housed at night. Free-range chickens grow more slowly than intensive chickens. They also live longer, at least 56 days. In the EU each chicken must have one square metre of outdoor space.

The benefits are a reduced growth rate and opportunities for natural behaviour such as pecking, scratching, foraging and exercise outdoors, as well as fresh air and daylight. Because they grow slower and have opportunities for exercise free-range chickens have better leg and heart health and a much higher quality of life.

In organic systems, chickens are also free-range. Organic chickens are slower growing, more traditional breeds and live typically for around 81 days. They grow at half the rate of intensive chickens. They have a larger space allowance outside (at least 2.5 square metres).

In higher welfare systems, such as Tesco Willow Farm, chickens are kept indoors but with more space (around 12 to 14 birds per square metre). They have a richer environment: including natural light and straw bales to encourage natural behaviour like foraging and perching.

RSPCA Freedom Food birds grow significantly more slowly, living for up to two weeks longer than intensively farmed birds.

Request organic or free-range chicken in restaurants

Check the content of ready meals and processed chicken products. Buy products that contain free-range or organic chicken. Ask your local retailer to stock products containing higher welfare chicken

Encourage friends and family to buy organic, free-range chickens and eggs

Complain if you find chickens with hock burns on display in your local supermarket ( hock burns are marks on the chickens legs where their skin gets burnt from being stood in their own poo)

Supermarket policy guide:

Here is a brilliant guide to the supermarkets and their policies on chickens from CIWF.


Chickens are intelligent creatures with individual personalities. Their feathers are soft and they love being cuddled. They each have their own ‘song’ and did you know the colour of the egg shells match the colour of their ears.

There is no real need for you to eat chicken, when you could use a quorn substitute instead in your recipes, and don’t be fooled into thinking you need to eat meat for protein. You can also get other good sources of protein that are not meat based like lentils, almond butter, beans, quinoa, eggs, avocado, peas, chick peas, brown rice and nuts.

Watch this video to see the truth about your chicken dinner, this is it in reverse (graphic content) and think of this, your Sunday roast chicken will have more room, dead in your oven, than it did whilst alive!

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