You’ve probably seen the commercials. A nice man from A&W Restaurants takes to the streets to offer consumers the company’s new antibiotic-free chicken. People seem to approve and who wouldn’t? The overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is a huge problem that threatens the effectiveness of the antibiotics we depend on for human health.
But A&W’s move to address the issue by sourcing only chickens that have not been treated with antibiotics, while laudable, does nothing to address another serious issue of concern to consumers – animal welfare.
Chickens raised for meat are the most abused animals on the planet. They live in huge indoor sheds in groups of 5,000 to 50,000, eating and sleeping in their own waste for their entire lives. Because they are bred for fast growth they develop painfully weakened bones from rapid weight gain and suffer from many other painful conditions.
In 1950 it took 84 days for a broiler to reach market weight. Today it takes 38 to 40 days. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture estimates that if you grew as fast as a chicken, you’d weigh 349 pounds at age two. These chickens look full-grown, but peep like the babies they are.
VHS encourages consumers to seek out plant-based alternatives to factory-farmed meat because of the profound suffering that it causes. Products from companies like B.C.-based Gardein provide convenient, healthy and great-tasting meat alternatives.