PoultryUSA - September 2017 - 38
38 ❙ WATTPoultryUSA
SLOW-GROWING BROILER MOVEMENT
how animal agriculture can work collectively to push back
against animal rights groups, took place May 3-4 in Kansas
Cage free versus slow growing
While the movement picked up momentum in Europe and
the specialty domestic egg market for years prior, cage-free
egg production became almost ubiquitous in the U.S. egg industry largely due to activists' efforts. In 2015, McDonalds announced its plans to sell only eggs laid by cage-free hens in its
restaurants in the U.S. and Canada by 2025. In the following
months, hundreds of restaurants, grocers, hospitality organizations and caterers made similar pledges.
The industry responded by making its own commitments to produce cage-free eggs. Going cage free,
however, is not a simple or cheap task. Existing housing
must be either renovated or replaced to make way for
new cage-free housing systems. Cage-free hens consume
more feed than caged hens, and far more management is
required to ensure success. After clearing those hurdles,
farmers aren't guaranteed they'll sell their eggs at a profit.
In May, Dolph Baker, CEO of Cal-Maine Foods Inc., said
cage-free eggs are being overproduced and consumers
aren't currently willing to pay more for them. He also
questioned if the pledges could be met.
Read more online: The expanding market for
slow-growing broilers, www.WATTAgNet.
The speakers said animal activist groups, through
cage-free and other issues, discovered they could achieve
quicker success pressuring corporations, rather than
governments, to change. Activists leverage consumers'
emotions and notions of how a chicken should be raised to
influence a retailer's welfare policies. As Opengart said,
activists are also willing to threaten serious public relations repercussions if their demands aren't met.
With a successful campaign in cage-free eggs behind
them, activists are now turning their attention to the much
Dr. Matt Salois (left), director of global scientific
affairs and policy at Elanco Animal Health, Dr. Ken
Opengart (center), head of global animal health and
welfare and US sustainability at Keystone Foods
and Dr. Kate Barger (right), director of world animal
welfare at Cobb-Vantress Inc., speak on a panel
discussing the slow-growing broiler movement.
larger broiler chicken industry. Salois said the slow-growing
campaign benefits from the sheer magnitude of the 9 billion
bird U.S. broiler flock and the consumer's prior familiarity
with the animal. Some retailers are already pledging only to
sell slow-growing broiler meat. Opengart said the economic
and environmental drawbacks of switching would be dire.
He estimated broilers would be twice as expensive to raise
and produce half as much meat.
Come together now or pay the price later
Barger-Weathers said the industry - including breeders, producers and retailers - needs to meet and establish
a unified front to keep the slow-growing movement from
becoming the standard production practice. She said this
will mean setting aside rivalries to form the best possible
"This is kind of a ship: Either everybody is going to
have to sink, and everybody's going to have to go that
[slow-growing] route, or we can stay afloat and we can
all work together," she said. "So those conversations are
starting to happen between competitors ... we need to get
www.WATTAgNet.com ❙ September 2017