North Island inspections find lame chickens
Thirty per cent of chickens in 20 farms across the North Island have been found to be suffering from leg problems affecting their movement.
The finding is in a new report from the Ministry for Primary Industries that lifts the lid on "lameness levels" among New Zealand's indoor chicken meat farms.
Green Party animal welfare spokeswoman Mojo Mathers said the study exposed the harsh reality of factory-farmed chicken meat.
"It is appalling that a third of chickens are unable to walk properly. Such a high level of suffering is totally unacceptable. Raising chickens for meat in these conditions cannot be considered humane by any use of the word."
The report inspected 6409 birds from 20 randomly selected farms across the North Island, including farms from Brink's Chicken, Inghams Enterprises and Tegel.
Waikato-based Inghams Enterprises would not comment on the findings, and referred inquiries to the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand. The association would not comment about the report before press time.
Inghams has its head office in Te Aroha as well as offices in Cambridge and Auckland. The company operates one hatchery, three processing plants, two feedmills and other parent farms and contract broiler farms. It employs more than 1000 staff.
The report revealed a 2.65 per cent mortality rate among the birds before they reached slaughter weight.
The leg health of a minimum of 300 birds in each shed was assessed by gait scoring, a method of judging a chicken's movement ability.
The score ranges from zero to five, with five being a chicken that is incapable of walking.
The report found that 30 per cent of birds had a score between three and five and 1.7 per cent had a score between four and five.
Lame birds were suffering joint infections, twisted legs and septicaemia.
All the farms surveyed had feed containing antibiotics.
Mathers said this was worrying, given the growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs around the world.
"The chicken industry have claimed that they only use antibiotics when recommended by a vet, but the routine use in feed revealed in this report puts that claim in doubt."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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