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Chickens fly up the food chain, but for them it’s nothing to ...

World

Chickens fly up the food chain, but for them it’s nothing to crow about

As consumers trade in red meat for white, producers are battling to keep up and their methods are not sustainable

Leslie Patton and Jasmine Ng

For centuries, a delectable steak or pork loin has been at the top of the food chain for diners as societies grew more affluent and improved their diets. No longer. In 2022 chicken consumption is expected to reach 98-million tons, double the amount eaten in 1999. That’s more than three times the growth rate of pork and 10 times that of beef. Global chicken consumption is on track to account for 41% of all meat-eating by 2030. And in less than a decade, for better or worse, humans will, for the first time, consume far more chicken than any other type of protein.

Thanks to genetics and other innovations, the cost of rearing chickens has been pushed down repeatedly over the years. Modern birds are ready for slaughter just six weeks after they’re hatched. During that time they prodigiously convert feed into protein like no other animal can.

“Somehow we continue to find ways to increase the amount of meat per bird and bring down the time that’s involved there,” says Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at the Indiana’s Purdue University. “One might imagine there are some biological limits to these things, but we haven’t found them yet.”..

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