Time to separate fact from fiction

The data is in…chicken meat consumption is on the rise again. On 2 March 2021, ABARES released updated statistics[i]  on Australia’s agricultural commodities, including forecasts for commodity production in 2020-21, and five year forward projections and chicken meat has retained (in fact, improved) its position as Australia’s favourite meat!

In 2020-21, ABARES forecasts that Australians will consume approximately 46.4 kg per person, rising to 46.9 kg in 2021-21. That’s a whopping 46% of all meat (excluding fish and seafood) consumed in Australia. Prior to the 1960s, we were eating only 5 kgs per person a year.

How has this been possible? Well, put it down to chicken’s unique combination of:

But amazingly, while the popularity of chicken remains strong, so do some long-held myths and misconceptions about Australia’s chicken meat industry. In fact, new research[ii] tells us that some of these misperceptions haven’t shifted in the last decade! Let’s address these now, so Australia can enjoy their chicken and feel even better about doing so.

Are chickens fed hormones in Australia?

That old furphy! No. Australian chickens are not given hormones in any way – haven’t been for over 60 years. Their size occurs naturally due to selective breeding and optimal nutrition.

How are antibiotics used in Australia?

The chicken industry has a responsibility to maintain the health and welfare of the chickens in its care. Sometimes, where other health management strategies have failed, it may become necessary to administer antibiotics to treat or prevent disease in flocks. However, all chicken health programs are under veterinary supervision and only antibiotics approved by Australia’s regulatory authorities are used. If used, they must be administered in accordance with strict guidelines so that they do not leave unsafe residues. All major chicken companies in Australia have adopted antimicrobial stewardship programs to ensure that any use of medications adheres to the key principles of responsible use.

Which country does my chicken meat come from?

Almost all (more than 99%) chicken meat consumed in Australia is grown in Australia. To protect local chicken flocks from disease, raw chicken meat can only be imported under strict protocols, which currently poultry producers in other countries have been unable to meet. Some cooked chicken meat is imported from New Zealand. There is also a small amount of ‘retorted’ or ‘cooked in can’ cooked chicken meat imported, mainly as an ingredient to processed food (e.g. canned chicken, soups or animal food), however, it can only be imported if it has been cooked at high temperatures and in accordance with a strict protocols.

Are chickens reared in cages?

No. In Australia, meat chickens are never reared in cages. All commercial meat chickens in Australia are grown on the floor of large sheds or barns, which is covered with a bedding material like wood shaving, rice hulls or chopped straw. Some chickens also have access to an outdoors range. The chicken meat industry is completely separate from the egg industry, and the way birds are housed is completely different (see one of my old blogs that explains the differences).

Want to know more about how chicken meat is produced in Australia? If so, then take a look at our new website that will help you separate the fact from the fiction about how your favourite meat is produced.

[i] https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/research-topics/agricultural-outlook/data#agricultural-commodities

[ii] https://www.agrifutures.com.au/product/market-insights-for-australias-chicken-meat-industry/

Article credit www.chicken.org.au/