Chicken farming with higher welfare isn’t as costly as you think

Our landmark report Valuing Higher Chicken Welfare shows that raising higher welfare chickens is much cheaper than previously thought.

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Food production system that fails

Millions of chickens are raised every year in cramped factory farms. These chickens are genetically designed to grow quickly and to be heavy, often far too much for their legs to support. Combining fast growth with crowded, barren environments is a recipe to cause severe mental and physical trauma.

Are higher welfare chicken farms too costly?

Chicken industry claims that switching to higher-quality, more sustainable farming practices is too costly. We were not convinced so we partnered up with the University of Wageningen, a world-famous university in the Netherlands, to investigate.

Experts in business and agriculture conducted an economic and welfare analysis on five markets: the United States, Brazil China, Thailand, China, Brazil and China – all of whom are top chicken producers, exporters, and consumers globally..

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We also examined what consumers thought about the welfare of chickens in these markets. We wanted to find out if consumers are willing to pay more to get a better quality product with higher welfare.

Chicken farming with higher welfare is not as costly as previously believed

Research shows that a shift from a factory farm into a more welfare indoor farm can increase production costs by only 0.6 to 0.9 Euroc per kg of live birds across all five markets.

This results in a cost increase of only 6.13.4% above traditional production costs. This is lower than the cost increases of up 49% predicted by Elanco Animal Health (2015), which was funded by the US industry.

High demand for chickens with higher welfare is growing

Our research also showed that consumers are demanding higher welfare chicken at a global level that is hard to ignore for both retailers and producers.

Consumers are becoming more concerned about poor conditions in which chickens were raised. Survey respondents indicated that they are willing to pay more for better welfare meat.

Globally, more than 60% of chicken buyers surveyed would pay for higher quality and better welfare products. This was based on a larger study that included 14 countries.

Improvements in the lives of billions upon billions of chickens

These solutions are simple and effective, and supported by solid scientific evidence. These improvements include:

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Use chicken breeds that are healthier and more balanced to grow your chickens

  • Give chickens more space and natural sunlight
  • To keep chickens active and healthy, give them objects such as perches and hay bales.
  • Some companies have already committed to improving the lives of chickens

It is not expensive to move to higher welfare agriculture and it can have multiple benefits for consumers, chicken farmers and companies. KFC branches across six European countries including Germany and the UK announced earlier this month a major commitment towards improving chicken welfare by 2026. Your support was key to this achievement. We are grateful.

This is a great opportunity to improve the lives and well-being of millions of chickens worldwide. Higher welfare indoor systems are scientifically proven to improve welfare outcomes. It opens up new business opportunities around the world. It allows consumers to choose what they want, and producers and retailers can show that they care about the welfare of animals.

It can also provide a significant change in the lives of chickens.

Chicken cruelty is not justified by cost

We found that millions of chickens could be removed from cruel intensive systems each year. This is because high costs cannot be used by producers, restaurants and retailers as an excuse. There is good reason to believe that the cost of higher welfare systems in other markets will increase due to the consistency of chicken production methods across the globe.

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We are grateful for your help and will continue to work tirelessly to spread the word.