On World Chicken Day, we’re answering commonly asked questions about chickens and their production. One of the most widely consumed meats, chicken production was one of the areas where consumers first made their demands on food production known. As consumers, particularly millennials, have expressed their preferences for how chickens are raised, they have become more interested in learning about how chickens are grown today and are asking more questions.
Did you know?
- The world’s appetite for chicken is growing faster than any other meat, while pork consumption is slowing even in its most popular markets. Chicken is expected to surpass pork and beef consumption globally by 2050.
- United States per capita consumption of all chicken is estimated to be 42.23 kilograms (93.1 pounds) in 2018, a huge increase from even 10 years ago when it was 38.01 kilograms (83.8 pounds).
- Globally, Israel is the largest per capita consumer of poultry at 56.9 kilograms per capita.
- It takes 26 hours for an egg to form fully, so hens typically only lay one egg per day.
The chicken vs. the egg
Coincidentally, World Egg Day is tomorrow, so, at least in terms of random “holidays,” it would seem the chicken came first. However, this classic conundrum can be proven scientifically. It turns out eggs existed long before anything we would recognize as a chicken, so the answer is the egg came before the chicken!
The first eggs came from water animals, a sponge, about 500 million years ago. Fast forward 200 million and a reptile laid the first eggs on land. These eggs had a harder shell that kept them from drying out. Ultimately, the chicken evolved from non-chickens and the first chicken egg was produced. The first cell of a new baby chicken – known as a zygote – is where DNA mutations would have taken place to evolve into the chicken. Since the zygote cell is housed in the egg, the egg must have come first.
How chickens can be raised sustainably
Sustainability is important for any livestock production system and especially so for chickens as they are such a large part of the global diet. Consumers increasingly demand sustainable production, but it’s also important for producers so they can continue to grow chickens effectively. Much like we can answer the age-old chicken or egg question with science, we also use scientific research and discovery to help produce chickens sustainably.
In reviewing the sustainability of chicken production, nutrition and feed efficiency can make a significant difference. We’re constantly studying the needs of poultry, and by formulating feeds to give birds the right nutrients that are easily digestible and absorbed, we can increase feed efficiency, which is the rate of how much feed is needed to maintain a productive, egg-laying chicken. Many farmers are using phytogenic feed additives, natural, plant-derived compounds added to the hen’s diet, to help with nutrient utilization and gut health, thus, maximizing the resources invested in producing eggs.
Beyond improving feed efficiency, phytogenics can help reduce emissions and ammonia caused by chicken production. Saponins, an ingredient in some phytogenic products, can inhibit ammonia and its associated enzymes. What kind of impact can phytogenics truly have on producing sustainable chickens?
Well, for instance, if all the laying hens in the European Union were fed with the Delacon phytogenic product Biostrong® 510, CO2 emissions could be reduced by approximately 450,000 tonnes. This is roughly the equivalent of a car with average fuel usage driving around the world 40,000 times. These products are based in nature, but are proven with science to help produce the chicken the world loves to consume.