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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I do not eat meat. However, I realize there will always be people who enjoy it and I am not in a position to dissuade them. What I AM in a position to do is demand that all livestock raised for food be given a clean, healthy environment without the use of artificial growth hormones and be given space to roam, roost, forage, whatever their natural inclination. If you are going to raise these animals for slaughter the VERY LEAST you can do is give them a healthy, spacious environment and let them eat natural food.


Today it is all about money they care nothing about the chickens, well it is all factory farms that treat animals cruel I buy nothing from factory farms all because of the way they are raised. I would love to take those people and do what they do to chickens and see how much they love life for the very short time they would have to live it.

Tricia Hamilton

You people suck. We throw away killed animals like they are garbage. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME On all of US!!


You will not tell me that peoples keep on paying for rising gas prices, but would have a problem paying another dollar for eggs? I am no longer buying eggs that are not organic and from free range chicken ... I guess peoples who don't care about the welfare of animals are probably not worried about their own health, so they will pay much more at the end by ending up in the Dr's office or hospital. The chicken industry doesn't care!


I have eliminated all farmed meat from my diet for the very reasons stated. I don't think the meat is healthy anymore and I abhor the way the factory farmed animals are treated. It is despicable!! I had a pet rooster which recently died and am proud to say he lived "free range!" Hopefully, one day the animals will get to return to a humane farming way of life. Speak up people--boycott eating meat until things change. You'll survive!

Tricia Hamilton

Please, Please, Please, stop eating meat. Be kind to our planet and the animals and the world!!


Reading these articles has really justified my continued movement toward a vegan lifestyle. Don't get me wrong. It's not easy to try to move away from a meat based diet. From all of the 'weirdo' comments to outright hatred, it is difficult to be vegetarian or vegan. I think it has become a little easier now that vegetable based foods are more available. And, I think more and more people are finally realizing that a meat based diet is not healthy for the most part. Thank you for these informative articles.


We raise Perdue chickens as babies to the time they are ready to be moved to a layer house and I can honestly say they look like the Chicken on the Right; which is the way a chicken "should" look! They are free to roam, very active, free from antibiotics, no steroids and are well fed an all veggie diet. They have free roam of the entire chicken house. They also can fly about as well a any chicken can. These other growers disgust us and we are completely against them. Do the world a favor and buy ONLY Perdue Chicken for cooking and to eat (We do not profit either way so this is not a gimmick) not support anyone who could be so cruel!!


Obviously, "99% of them live"... They're being farmed. I think this article could be more clear about citing sources (in text) so one can look into the statistics.


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