The website of the Poultry Industry Association of NZ (PIANZ) says we kill 125 million birds a year. This tallies well with Stats NZ which gives 124 million, – much the same. This works out at 238 chickens a minute or about four per second are killed day and night. And we would each eat 25 chickens a year.
But wait. PIANZ also states we each eat 20 chickens a year or 37.5 kg chicken. They are produced on 180 farms. That amounts to the meat on 750 drumsticks a year or about 2 a day.
So we presume the discrepancy is that some are exported or just that some are killed. It sounds like there are numerous deaths before they mature what with the forced feeding that makes a third of them painfully lame in the last weeks. They double in weight so quickly that their legs can’t carry them.
The Poultry Industry is growing
Stats NZ also gives the figures for the growth of the poultry industry. There are figures for processed chicken meat for every quarter. Back in the first quarter of 2011, we processed 21,427 chickens whereas the third quarter of 2019 we processed 30,950. It grew every quarter in that period. That is a 44% increase over those eight years.
Of course this is helped along the way by what they would call “improvements in efficiency” as they now slaughter chickens between 34 and 42 days. This means you can raise nearly nine a year by replacing them.
So it seems chicken is becoming more and more popular. With fish, it is stealing the meat market away from red meat.
Most chicken is sold fresh with only about an eleventh of them sold frozen. Our main exporter is Tegel who in 2018 exported $89.6 million while making a total of $615m profits that year.
New Zealand has about 140 meat chicken farmers and 170 commercial egg farmers. The four largest companies are Tegel, Inghams, Brinks and Turks
Climate effects of Chicken
But what about their contribution to climate change? Because poultry have lower greenhouse gas emissions due to their lower enteric methane production rates than ruminant livestock species, many consider poultry to have an environmental advantage compared to many other animal protein sources.
Poore puts the greenhouse gas production per serving at about a sixth of that of beef, but it is still six times a big as a serving of beans. But I guess the problem is not per serving. It is the total. Six servings of chicken produce the same weight of GHGs as one of beef.