Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Chicken Jungle

The US now produces 8.84 billion broilers (meat chickens) every year—of which 1.4 billion, or nearly one in six, are produced in Georgia. The number of chickens produced  annually in the United States has increased by more than 1,400 percent since 1950 while the number of farms producing those birds has dropped by 98 percent.

The state's annual broiler flock, roughly equal in number to the human population of China, takes place on just 2,170 farms—meaning that each one produces a mind-numbing 640,000 birds, collectively churning 2 million tons of chicken feces and other waste. Just two companies produce as much as 85 percent of the globe's breeding broilers,

As recently as 1980, a finished broiler weighed in at about 3.8 pounds. Today, the figure is 5.65 pounds—a 33 percent increase in just three decades. Meanwhile, the time it takes to get them to slaughter weight has plunged. A broiler can now go from hatchling to raw material for chicken nuggets in as little as 42 days—representing a growth rate four times as fast as those that prevailed just 50 years ago.

Workers in poultry slaughterhouses large enough to kill 200,000 birds in a single day ranks among the most dangerous of US occupations and official figures may underestimate the hazard. In Georgia, because of the state’s lack of anti-retaliation protections, a worker who  reports her work-related injury in order to seek workers’ compensation benefits like  medical treatment and partial pay for time when she is unable to work may lawfully be fired for filing or pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.

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