NELIGH — Not only do broiler chickens experience extreme cruelty after arriving at the processing plant, as described by Robert Rieck in his letter that appeared in the Norfolk Daily News recently, the cruelty begins the moment they are hatched.

Most broiler chickens are raised in large warehouses, crowded together in such great numbers that they have little room to move. Additional space will allow them to move freely and also improve the quality of their litter — waste material covering the floor of the warehouse — by allowing it to dry. When litter stays wet because of overcrowding, it can cause ammonia burns and sores on the chickens’ feet and legs.

With more room and drier litter, birds will also be able to dustbathe — an instinctive behavior that works sort of like dry shampoo for people.

They’re bred to grow so large so fast that they suffer from ailments such as chronic pain, broken legs, heart attacks and lung failure. Their chests become gigantic before their skeletal system is fully developed, leading to top-heavy birds that topple over.

They live really miserable lives that are short, less than 50 days. The average day for a broiler chicken essentially consists of sitting in pain, in one spot in a warehouse, too deformed to move.

Producers are encouraged to install windows that allow natural light, or, at minimum, use lighting cycles that mimic the outdoors. The producers are also being asked to offer perches and bales of straw for pecking.

Producers are being asked to use healthier, more responsibly bred chickens in their supply chains to reduce their suffering.

Producers are being asked to use controlled atmospheric stunning to slaughter chickens, which reduces the birds’ stress and renders them unconscious before they reach human hands. We slaughter these defenseless birds who have a very short life. Can’t we at least treat them humanely?

There are nearly 100 companies that have committed to improving the welfare of conditions for broiler chickens in their supply chains.

Those companies include Burger King, Campbell’s, Nestle, Subway, Starbucks and Sonic, naming the companies and restaurants we are familiar with in Northeast Nebraska. McDonald’s is not on any list I have seen. In my opinion, the company has ignored calls for change, instead issuing vague press statements.


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