What impact does poultry from large farms have on the environment?

From 1965 to today (2022), the environmental impact of chicken production has decreased by 50% worldwide. And this is despite the fact that production has greatly increased. At the same time, the health and welfare of chickens has also increased. With the constant improvements achieved by selecting the strongest and best performing animals (equal growth with less feed consumption), using balanced selection goals that consider not only the efficiency, but also the health and fitness of the animal, breeders have also been able to improve the so-called ‘conversion ratio’ of water and feed (equal feed increases the animal’s growth). This path, followed by specialised breeders, produces an effect that may go unnoticed and underestimated: genetic selection contributes significantly to reducing the environmental footprint of food production by constantly improving the efficiency and livability (reduced mortality) of the animals in question. There is no need to explain the benefits that consuming less water brings; and breeding animals that need less feed leads to fewer hectares of land being cultivated for that purpose.
The introduction of slow growth is a feasible and available alternative that has in fact forced some farms to take many years’ steps backwards in terms of environmental footprint. This is because slow-growing animals come from differently selected breeds and by staying on the farm longer they consume about 40% more water, increase guano production by 53% and according to some reports it appears that to have the same ‘meat’ quantities with slow-growing genotypes will require 68% more animals and – because of this – 128% more poultry houses. The amount of feed required will be 97% more and will require a similar percentage increase in truck deliveries. Offal disposal will increase by 95 per cent.
This should be enough to highlight that, those who theoretically act for animal welfare by forcing more ‘slow growth’ or even ‘organic’ farming, are in fact acting in direct opposition to the efforts of agricultural scientists working to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of food production and increase sustainability.