Fattened Faster, Slaughtered Sooner: The Cruel Race for Cheap Meat

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 11:15am
chickens stuffed into cages

September is National Chicken Month, so it’s especially fitting that this month the ASPCA launched a national campaign to improve the lives of the nearly 9 billion chickens raised and slaughtered every year for meat. The Truth About Chicken is a big initiative for a big problem.

As the graph below shows, since 1920 the average weight of a meat chicken has risen while the time it takes to reach “slaughter weight” has shrunk. This is no accident. In the name of producing as much cheap white breast meat as possible, modern chickens have been bred for unnaturally fast and disproportionate weight gain.

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The average age and the average live weight of chickens at slaughter since 1920.

On factory farms, where 99% of them live, chickens are packed into windowless sheds by the tens of thousands where in just over six weeks, they explode from tiny chicks into top-heavy, sumo-sized six-pound birds. That's almost a pound of weight gain a week!

The weight strains the birds’ bones and organs, which haven't had enough time to develop, causing all kinds of breakdown: broken bones, torn tendons, difficulty breathing, heart attacks and birds who collapse under their own weight. Overburdened but still youngsters, these chickens lie in their own waste for much of their lives, causing burns and open sores on their chests and feet. These wounds allow in Salmonella, campylobacter and other pathogens that can make consumers sick. 

As farmer Will Harris states, “We have successfully bred most of the chicken out of the chicken. A chicken in 1940, raised for 14 weeks to maturity, could fly. A chicken in 2010, raised for 6 weeks to maturity, struggles to walk.”

We’re fighting for better lives for chickens and we need your help. Tell the industry that you won’t stand for this kind of cruelty in the name of profit. Take action at today!

Sources: Data sources include USDA Poultry Slaughter ReportsNational Chicken Council, Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production (2002) and Handbook of Poultry and Egg Statistics (1937). Graphic created by from blog post on Sept. 10, 2013.

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Thanks for making the shift to no meat! That makes my heart happy. I hope others follow in your footsteps! For me -- it happened when I was 4. I was horrified to find out that i was eating animals instead of mislabeled things like "roast beef". When my mother asked me if I wanted a leg or a breast while being served chicken -- the lightbulb went off and that was it for me. I always thought of animals as my friends and I have always preferred 4 legged beings to 2 legged beings so for me -- it was just something I could NOT be part of.
I cant wait for the rest of the world to catch up so that this suffering of many innocent lives is a thing of the horrible past.

Nancy Mehan

Chris, for me, your letter was very close to home. Tyson is a huge name in my area of AR. These chicken trucks go past my house on a routine basis; the poor birds are so frightened. It's cruel beyond belief. Chicken is no longer on my menu as well as meat of any kind.


This happened to me as well...When people ask what do I eat I say I dont eat abused animals..that makes them research what Im speaking about...


well, I have to say I'm a meat eater..always was, always will be and EATING meat has nothing to do with the treatment of animals! We are omnivores by nature and our bodies need the nutrients in each their own though, if you decided you don't want to , that is fine, but please don't generalize meat eaters as 'the gluttonous public'!! you make it sound like everyone who eats meat is devouring it with their bare hands, raw with no manners and not civilized. We don't eat a whole cow and chicken at every meal..and frankly you really need to get with the times! This is the world we live in and it's people like you that prevent organizations like the ASPCA and others to actually HELP in the treatment of animals. Some animals are meant to be eaten...BUT they are not meant to be treated and kept the way a lot of farms do (although it is a disgrace to call them actual farms) It's the lack of local farming that is the biggest problem. Small farms (generally) tend to treat their animals very well, lots of land, food, fresh air and health care when needed. The point is there should be LAWS about HOW animals are kept and raised....those that don't abide should be shut down, not slapped with a fine, as the fine hardly out weighs their profits and nothing will change until people start taking matters into their own hands (not the extremists though) Buy local when you can, ask questions to the farmer, if you can't get to a farm there are many grocers that you can ask where your meat comes from and hey...we all have internet...try doing a little research on the farm and place the grocer says the meat is from. Maybe make a little trip to a farm and learn more about the process and familiarize yourself so you are better educated. The government is not going to change and waiting for them to 'wake up' is useless and a waste of time. How about you get off your buns and educate those around you after you educate yourself, and only through everyday people (the little guy) can word of mouth spread and people can's one thing to say 'oh , fast food meat comes from farms where they mistreat and artificially grow their meat, don't eat it' to 'hey, if you must eat fast food....such and such a place uses farms that treat their animals well and is more natural and safe for you and your family, or 'this grocery store uses local meats that are ethically treated and slaughtered, better for the animal and better for your health and still good prices!' those at least educate the average person to have a decision to change a small's a small start, but the more the better.....just complaining about a problem doesn't fix it. Look at where you live, learn about where you live and all of your local things around, then spread the word....knowledge is power and power is self supplying.


You don't need to be offended (unless you feel bad about something) And no humans are not naturally omnivores. Just be the most humane you can in your life.


Most humans are omnivores, which means they consume both plants and animals and therefore consume from different trophic levels.

Omnivores - various definitions are: om·ni·vore, [om-nuh-vawr, -vohr] Show IPA, noun 1. someone or some thing that is omnivorous. 2. an omnivorous animal.

1885–90; < French, on the model of carnivore, etc. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.
World English Dictionary definition: omnivore (ˈɒmnɪˌvɔː) - n
an omnivorous person or animal

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source.
Medical Dictionary omnivore om·ni·vore (ŏm'nə-vôr')
An omnivorous person or animal.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source


Well said...


Well said...


I dont eat meat but I dont judge people for what they do..I must say I like the points u brought out and if a lot more people can use this as a blueprint It will change things for the animals..This country will never be a non meat eating one but humane people can take over and demand humane treatment of our animals whether u eat them or not..The abuse has to stop..


Oh dear you have such a closed heart, mind and brain. Don't like being called a glutton? Knowledge is obviously something you lack.