Chicken dollar

A chicken for 60 euros at the supermarket? It could happen if…

(part one)

Finding a chicken in the supermarket for EUR 60 is something the poultry industry tries to avoid happening.

This is something that the industry and the whole chain leading up to our table would be forced to put into action if they were to listen to the constant (unfounded) complaints of animal activists about the alleged mistreatment that they say takes place in the poultry industry.

The activists are people from various backgrounds and cultures who, on the subject of poultry, believe they are informed by listening to some television report or reading some critical article. There are very few who make the effort to verify and investigate, and when they do, they often recant… everyone else tends to believe the messages and criticisms of those who instrumentalise the activities that take place on protected farms (what are otherwise called intensive farms) for a living.

The poultry industry almost always chooses not to spend too much time dismantling the criticism it receives, because it has repeatedly had to deal with idealists who are deaf and closed in their own convictions based on distorted views of reality and inexplicably refractory to even the most documented scientific answers.

Up until 70 years ago (around 1950), everyone was able to raise chickens, collect their eggs and even kill them without fainting or being crucified by their animalist children. Today, the systems of organisation for food production have been refined and perfected, mainly to make it easy for billions of people to access quality food at low cost.

Among the more or less animatedly discussed topics, we often find that concerning the killing of male chicks. To the public the information comes just like that: ‘male chicks are being culled’. Of course this is what happens, but it must be clearly explained where, how, when, why and whether there is awareness and research to avoid or reduce the use of this practice. The poultry sector in fact, among all the issues of protecting the welfare of farmed animals, carries out constant research on how to prevent this activity, which is necessary for the reasons we will explain below

As you read on, you will realise that it is always useful to deepen your information to avoid stuffing yourself with rhetorical arguments from which it becomes difficult to detach yourself otherwise.

Basically, constant clarification is needed on what is ‘not known’ about the poultry sector.

Livestock farmers work to ensure the health and welfare of animals bred for human consumption, and it must be made clear that these animals cannot be sold if they are not healthy.

If farmed animals were not assured and certified of their welfare and health, they could not be sold and there would be no meat or eggs in the quantities available to meet the demand of the millions of consumers who seek them out, demand them, want them… and buy them, mainly because of their nutritional qualities and low cost.

On costs we will return.

For now, let us stick to the question of male chicks.

There are two different breeding systems that meet two different dietary needs:

  1. those designed to provide eggs for food use, consisting of animals belonging to so-called light breeds
  2. those designed to provide meat, consisting of animals belonging to heavy breeds


We all know that all chicks are born from eggs.

However, few people know that the chicks that will grow up to be egg-producing chicks are not the same ones that will grow up to produce meat for our food, mainly because they have different ‘parents’, from different breeds, selected for different results.

In the poultry industry, too, there is in fact the management of a certain pedigree, as happens, again through us humans, with dogs, cats and horses. It has to be said, however, that pedigree is just a pompous term to define ‘SELECTION’ in a different way, which takes place with the adoption of a sequence of selections between breeding pairs to choose those with certain characteristics deemed by man to be ideal for a given purpose.

The poultry industry has, over the past 70 years or so, selected stronger and less demanding poultry breeds. Today, farm animals have developed characteristics that make them ‘efficient’, i.e. they need to eat and drink less and yet grow more than their ancestors. Technically, this is called ‘better conversion’. Their environmental impact is considerably less than it used to be and at the same time they provide us with more nutrition.

The fruit of these selections is (with due distinction) comparable to the results of efficiency in athletes who are selected and trained to perform at their best, acting on their diet and lifestyle by applying different rhythms from the everyday life of an ordinary person.

However, even outside sport, humans grow and develop in close relationship with the environment they live in, what they eat and the lifestyle they lead. But this fact does not seem to be fully in the awareness of most.

Each human generation, however, sees its progeny grow and develop in relation to all these elements combined … which is also what happens with farmed animals. The only big difference is that in breeding, the possible combinations and their results are constantly observed and facilitated in their progression that might otherwise be missed. These are, after all, scientific approaches.


Back to the main topic: male chicks

The farms that supply eggs for consumption are populated by laying hens.

Laying hens are born from light breeders (male+female of course) who generate fertilised eggs. From these eggs, male and female chicks are born.

The females carry with them the genes of those who sired them and in five months’ time will therefore be the next laying birds, cared for and fed with carefully selected feed. Their development and maintenance is taken care of in accordance with their needs and they tend to be housed in aviaries equipped for this.

Remember that female laying hens belong to a breed selected to produce eggs and their characteristics require precise attention and dietary ‘diets’ respecting their needs identified by years of studies… animal welfare is also this.

Males that are born from the breeding stock of laying hen chicks also derive from the same selection, but they are males that, in addition to not producing eggs, have a genetic make-up that does not allow them to develop muscularly in the same way as males born from ‘heavy’ breeding stock.

The latter in fact produce males and females (both chickens referred to as broilers) that both grow up developing different muscle masses from those of males born from laying hens.

(Continued at this link to part 2)


The Editorial Board of M.A.C.