The hard-boiled truth about chicken factory farming in Texas.By Mike Barnett

Chicken factory farming in Texas is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

Consumers uneasily listen to horror stories about how birds suffer acute and chronic pain and are confined in unsanitary, disease-ridden chicken factory farms in Texas and other states, where they frequently succumb to heat prostration, infectious diseases and cancer.

These wild-eye claims remind me of an old saying from former president and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson: “Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken poop from chicken salad.”

Let me tell you this: You aren’t being fed chicken salad by these Chicken Little’s of the world. Those making outrageous claims are mostly vegan-based groups who use a “sky is falling” mentality of animal rights as a strategy in their laser-guided vision of a world without meat—chicken, beef, pork or otherwise.

Reality check: the people who grow chickens are individuals like you and me. For the most part they have families, responsibilities, bills, and yes, they buy their food—including chicken—at the grocery store. The difference is they are family farmers who make their living raising chickens for you to eat.

They grow chickens—mostly under contract to suppliers such as Pilgrim’s Pride or Sanderson Farms—to make money. To make money they have to raise chickens efficiently to produce pounds of meat. Taking shortcuts doesn’t work.  Mistreated chickens don’t gain weight. Chickens raised in unsanitary conditions aren’t healthy. Disease-ridden chickens die long before they’re ready for market. It’s as simple as that. There’s nothing to hide.

According to the National Chicken Council, 50 years ago the average broiler chicken came to market 63 days after hatch and weighed 3.35 pounds. The chicken ate 2.5 pounds of feed for each pound gained.

In 2010, the average broiler chicken comes to market 47 days after hatch weighing 5.6 pounds. It eats 1.9 pounds of feed for each pound of weight gained.

Do the math. The average chicken today is about 67 percent bigger than the chicken of 50 years ago. It comes to market in three-fourths of the time, which means the animal is younger and more tender. The chicken eats less feed and comes from a flock with better overall health.

Today’s chicken is larger because of emphasis in breeding for a meatier bird; and is healthier, due to science-based advances which have changed and improved the production of chickens.

As a result, consumers have something to crow about—a safe and nutritious source of meat that is a true bargain—produced humanely by family farmers who care.

And that’s the hard-boiled truth.

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Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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8 Responses to “Chicken factory farming in Texas: The hard-boiled truth”

  1. Nancy Arnold says:

    I just have a question please – I am not being a smarta–. I truly want to know the truth. Is there any other reasons for the modern day chickens being bigger with less food? Are they given and artificial growth hormones or antibiotics? I keep reading about all these artificial means of promoting faster growth and dont know who to believe.


  2. Nancy, natural cross-breeding is the biggest factor in advances in the growth of chickens.Improved diets, housing and health care programs also contribute to faster, more efficient and healthier birds. Feeding or injection of poultry with hormones has been illegal since the 1950s.

  3. No hormones are used in any chicken – or rabbits for that matter which sometimes are compared to them. There are alternatives in using those older breeds – but most people aren’t serious about supporting it. Selection and breeding will provide animals or birds that fit the desired characteristic. There is no drug available that is going to make a sickly animal well muscled and healthy. Good condition is needed. Muscle equals meat. Too many also lump meat chickens and egg birds together.

  4. Very informative article. Thanks for answering a lot of questions we have all had.

  5. Give me a break!!! The chickens are injected. Someone needs to do some research. If the chickens were to grow naturally as you stated, it would take longer. These are families who need MONEY!! It always goes back to the dollar. Yes, they are abused. I pass them every morning on I30. It is below 30(no heat, I think the driver should have the same circumstances) and the chickens are going to market. It can be over 100(no water) and the chickens still are going to market. NO, I am not a vegan but believe we should respect animals, people etc.

  6. I’m just curious PJ – what planet are you observing poultry farming on? A short trip in a truck to market is one thing. Day to day operation is another. Anyone raising poultry without water and heat will have a houseful of dead birds. Not much profit there. Ever tried to inject 10,000 birds? Labor costs would overwhelm. Not happening. You may not be a vegan, but you also don’t know much about agriculture. – Gene

  7. An addendum to my last post. As previously stated, it’s against the law to use hormones in poultry production. Not to mention a very labor intensive undertaking that would swamp any profit to be gained from catching and injecting that many chickens. If you know of someone doing it – turn em in with my blessings. Research? Well – don’t believe EVERYTHING you read on the Internet. – Gene

  8. Thank you! finally! some down to earth information! i agree completely with all of this! honestly, people need to eat, and the truth is the worlds population isn’t going to go vegetarian or vegan just because animals need to be killed for food. people. get it through your heads.

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