Spotlight on Poultry Welfare

What the Hummer is to fuel efficiency, poultry is to animal welfare. No other farmed animal in the U.S. endures more suffering.

As it stands, birds raised for meat have absolutely no protection under the law. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is the only piece of federal legislation that offers protection to farmed animals at slaughter, and chickens and turkeys are formally excluded from the law. As a result, it’s legal—in fact it’s standard practice—to paralyze birds and slaughter them while they are still conscious.1 This is true of free range, organic, and even pastured birds.

It’s also perfectly legal to starve or feed restrict birds to enhance egg production,2 cut off their sensitive beaks to prevent birds from pecking each other in unnaturally cramped conditions, and confine them for their entire lives in spaces so small they can never stretch their wings.3

To make matters worse, there are currently no laws in place to prevent corporations from genetically engineering birds regardless of the cost to animal or human wellbeing. In the U.S., virtually all chickens and turkeys raised for meat or eggs—including those labeled natural, organic, and free range—are hybridized birds.

The poultry industry has hidden the problems stemming from hybrid genetics from public view more effectively than the tobacco industry hid the health risks of smoking. Insiders know it’s the biggest problem in animal welfare today and a threat to public health, but the full scope of the problem is obscured in most public forums.” –Farm Forward CEO Aaron Gross

As a result of modern hybrid breeding techniques, chickens and turkeys suffer unnecessary and painful problems with skeletal development,4 heart and lung function,5 obesity,6 and more.

Making a bad situation worse, the factory farm systems employed to raise these genetically unhealthy birds require the use of drugs that create a cascade of problems for human health. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently reported that more antibiotics were sold for use in meat and poultry production than ever before—a practice contributing to the emergence of drug-resistant superbugs.7

For these reasons, Farm Forward has always made poultry welfare a priority for our organization.

For the past four years, we’ve been working with poultry farmers and animal welfare experts to create—a free buying guide that takes the guesswork out of finding alternatives to factory farming. will list every poultry producer and poultry certification in the U.S. and tell you how they treat their animals. You’ll be able to see who’s best and who’s worst nationally and in your local grocery store. We’ll list what each company can do better and make it easy for you to add your voice to the cause. We’ll also provide information about the best plant-based alternatives and where you can find them.

We want to be the first reliable resource to help consumers distinguish the best from the rest. Connecting high-welfare farmers with conscientious consumers will shift the market share toward producers who treat animals more humanely.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve met our $40,000 Kickstarter project goal! We thank our backers for believing in Farm Forward, for supporting, and for being a part of our work to change the way our nation eats and farms!

With your voices behind us, our message to industrial agriculture will be heard loud and clear: The time has come to end the cruel and unsustainable practices of factory farming.

We’re going to cut through the confusion caused by misleading labels and unregulated terms that mean little or nothing. We’re going to make sure the best farmers stop getting lost in the crowd and start getting connected to consumers. And we’re going to make it easy to find—and try!—healthy and delicious plant-based alternatives to poultry products.

The real work to get up and running begins now. It’s time to roll up our sleeves. In the months to come, we’ll be keeping you posted on our progress.

Sign up for the Farm Forward newsletter to receive updates and important information about how you can get involved.


Take Action Read Next

  1. Temple Grandin and Gary C. Smith, Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter, 2004, available here.
  2. A.B. Webster, “Physiology and Behavior of the Hen During Induced Molt,” Poultry Science, 2003, 82: 992-1002.
  3. “Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks,” United Egg Producers, 2010, available here.
  4. J.C. McKay, N.F. Barton, A.N.M. Koerhuis, and J. McAdam (2000). The Challenge of Genetic Change in the Broiler Chicken. BSAS Occasional Publication: 1-7.
  5. J.C. McKay, N.F. Barton, A.N.M. Koerhuis, and J. McAdam (2000). The Challenge of Genetic Change in the Broiler Chicken. BSAS Occasional Publication: 1-7.
  6. Y. Wang et al. (2009). Modern Organic and Broiler Chickens Sold for Human Consumption Provide More Energy from Fat Than Protein. Public Health Nutrition 13(3).
  7. “Record-High Antibiotic Sales for Meat and Poultry Production,” The Pew Charitable Trust, February, 2013, available here.

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