Chicken is often seen as an affordable source of protein and has been recommended by some as a good choice for health and the environment instead of red meat. A new report by the Eating Better alliance shows how recommending this switch is causing real and often hidden costs.
The report called ‘We need to talk about chicken,’ shows that poultry overtook red meat sales for the first time in 2017 and now accounts for over 50% of meat consumption. 850 million chickens are reared for meat in the UK each year. Concerningly, 95% of this is in intensive indoor units.
Chicken has been touted as a healthy and sustainable meat, but it has serious trade-offs that are multiplied many times due to the vast amount of chicken produced. Our growing appetite for chicken accelerates climate change though deforestation to supply huge amounts of soy, a major part of the modern-day chicken’s diet.
Martin Lines, UK Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network has said: ‘As we see the public being encouraged to move from red meat to white meat we must look closely at the environmental and climate footprint of the animal feed inputs coming from around the world.
The UK imports around 3 million tonnes of soy annually, almost 60% of which is used by the poultry industry. Its production is a major driver of deforestation and land-use change in South America. Over half of the soy used to feed poultry in the UK is not certified deforestation free.
Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health says: ‘We know that for human and planetary health we should all be eating less and better meat and more plants, yet our chicken consumption has been increasing as a substitute for red meat. We need to get the message out that chickens today have over twice the amount of fat of chickens consumed in 1970 and have fewer essential nutrients, they are not the answer.’
The fat content of chicken increased from 8.6 grams of fat per 100 grams in 1970 to 22.8 grams of fat in 2004. Chicken now offers 69% less iron than in 1940 and five times less omega-3 than in 1970.
The report also highlights other, often hidden, costs of modern chicken production for consumers, farmers, the environment and animals, with over 27% of UK chickens having levels of lameness that are likely to be painful.
Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better has said: ‘Now feels like a crossroads for UK agriculture alongside the climate and biodiversity crises. We need to call out that further growth of chicken production is not a health or sustainability solution. There is a need to support nature friendly farming, with less and better meat, that restores our soils, regenerates nature and provides good rural jobs.’
Eating Better - an alliance of over 60 civil society organisations - is accelerating action for less and better meat and dairy for health, environment, animal welfare and social justice. We inspire and equip people, business and government, so that we can all eat better. www.eating-better.org.
The report will be published here http://bit.ly/EB2020chicken (Thursday 27 February 2020)
Food and Farming Policy
Food and Farming Policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.
The UK government has finally published its negotiating objectives for a future trade deal with the...
The Fairtrade Foundation launches a campaign to shine a light on the exploitation experienced by...
Environment Secretary George Eustice MP has failed to rule out the import of acid-washed chicken in...
Reports from Government suggest they are preparing to break from EU food safety rules at a...
Survey findings by Action on Salt reveal the astonishing and varying levels of salt found in bacon...
Your donation will help us work with farmers to push for policies to support farming fit for our future.
The new London Community Response Fund is now open to applications, to help voluntary and community...
Grassroots charities can get grants to support vulnerable people through Covid-19, via Community...
Food Foundation analysis shows that Covid-19 will leave millions of people unable to access the...
Looking to score some of the white stuff, or a bit of brown? You’re not alone.
Sustain, along with a group of other charities and campaigning groups has written to the government...
The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA
Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.