Chickens are specially bred and fed… then killed to be eaten. This man-made freak of a bird is not allowed to, nor would it be able to live out to its normal life-span. According to the Royal Society Open Science website, when instead of killing them at 5 weeks, they were kept alive upto 9 weeks their mortality rose 7 times. They stated “the rapid growth of leg and breast muscle tissue leads to a relative decrease in the size of other organs such as the heart ad lungs, which restricts their function, and thus longevity.”

In India since 1919 the Livestock Census has been conducted every 5 years. Poultry is also covered and the second highest rise 12.39% found in the 2012 Census was that of poultry. Very sad because that many more chickens were bred and raised to be killed for their flesh.

With the possible exception of fish, the hen is the creature that suffers the most for the sake of our food in sheer number of lives taken – 80% of the meat consumed in India is chicken. If in addition to these numbers, one considers the quality of these lives — lives banished to a lifetime of imprisonment and immobility for laying eggs — then their suffering might exceed that of fish.

Indian Poultry development (valued in 2009 at Rs 20,000 crore and with the involvement of 2 million people) continued as a backyard activity for over a decade after India’s independence. Commercial exploitation started in the early 1960s when the Government of India created four central poultry breeding farms. Forty years on, the poultry sector enjoyed industry-status and chicken is the main meat consumed in India with consumption of 1.9 million tonnes in 2005 although it is primarily live bird oriented as most chickens for home consumption are purchased live and slaughtered in small local shops.

Poultry is considered one of the fastest growing segments of the agricultural sector in India. The annual growth rate of the poultry sector is as high as 15-18% in broilers and 7-10% for egg production. Luckily, poultry farming has still not caught on in as big a way in rural areas of the country except maybe in Kashmir where 85% of the population is non-vegetarian and where 70% of its demand for chickens was by 2013 being met from within the state’s private poultry farms, and not brought in from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

However, it was claimed by the poultry industry that it did not grow more than around 14% in 2010 because of constraints like lack of basic infrastructure, such as storage and transportation, and the volatility in poultry feed prices.

Yet, in 2012 the Indian poultry industry was estimated at $3.6 billion. While India’s chicken producers like Suguna Food (Suguna Home Bites), Venky’s (Venky’s Xprs), Alchemist (Republic of Chicken) and Godrej Agrovet (Read Good Chicken) are fast expanding, global majors like Cobb of the US, Mitsubishi of Japan and CP Foods of Thailand are keen on entering India; and, the Aviagen Group (world’s premier poultry breeder) has already set up an integrated backend processing plant in South India.

In 2013 it was claimed that the world consumed 106 million tonnes of poultry, and since it was growing at the rate of 2.5% a year 128 million tonnes of chickens were expected to be globally eaten in 2020.

In 2015 when India’s broiler meat production stood at 3.5 mt (far below USA’s 17 mt) the US Department of Agriculture projected India’s domestic poultry meat consumption growing to 6.4 mt by 2023. USA was the largest producer, followed by Brazil, China, EU and India.

Intensive Poultry Farming

The hen was one of the first victims of the modern, intensive method of farming animals, called “factory farming” for the mechanised methods employed to raise and “harvest” the animals. Compared to the industrialised West, where this intensive method has practically completely replaced the traditional barnyard chicken farming, in India, one can still find chicken farming done both along traditional lines — mainly in rural areas — and in the modernised fashion (intensive factory farming) — for the urban market. However, the vastly greater output of the intensive system compared to the traditional system is hastening the progress of the latter to the pages of history.

What, then, are some of the cruelties involved in the raising of hen for food?

The relegation of hen to the status of inanimate, unfeeling vegetables, almost, is the most tragic outcome of the intensification of poultry farming. To have its bodily freedom snatched away, its every natural instinct frustrated, its parental instincts denied expression, and to be raised in surroundings completely alien to its natural requirements, all at the hands of the creature — man — who has fought wars to retain for himself these very privileges that he now denies the “lower” beings is the story of the moral decline of man.

Hens are raised as:
• “Layers” for laying eggs
• “Broilers” for being killed for meat

Ironically it is the hen (layer) that is raised for remaining alive and “producing” eggs whose quality of suffering is far worse than that of the male chicken (broiler) that is raised to be killed.

Each one of us needs to carefully think if it is ethically right for humans to:
• Grow grain and feed it to chickens instead of humans
• Advertise the co-called “benefits” of consuming chickens and eggs
• Kill chickens for humans to eat
• Know that humans die of starvation due to lack of grains to eat

The sole objective of intensive farming is increased production and economy of operation. India ranks fifth in the world in broiler chicken production of 2.3 million tonnes per year with India’s per capita consumption of 2.4 kg per person per annum. The means adopted for achieving this production is briefly described below.

Glimpse into a Poultry Farm
The broilers are crowded in small cages made of wire-mesh in which they can hardly move or spread their wings. This lack of space to stretch their limbs causes their legs to get deformed. Painful de-beaking is done to prevent them from injuring themselves and others during fights that break out as a natural consequence of their close and stressful confinement. They are antibiotics and hormones daily.

According to experts there is no doubt that antibiotic shots given to poultry (and seafood) to increase growth, has fuelled antibiotic resistance among non-vegetarians in India. However, in response to the EU pressing to specify withdrawal time on meat and fish exports, India prepared a National Policy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance which puts a cap on how much and for how long antibiotics can be pumped into poultry, seafood and other products. Under the new rule for eggs and milk, layers (hens) and milch cattle (cows/she-buffaloes) will have to be off antibiotics for 7 days before they enter the food chain; for poultry and livestock (slaughtered for meat) 28 days; whereas for fish it has been specified at 500 degree days.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 58,000 children died in India in 2013 due to antibiotic resistance. Following the WHO report warning, in 2014 the Drug Controller General of India and the Ministry of Agriculture directed all state governments to stop the use of antibiotics and hormones in cattle, poultry and other animal feed. They also called for strict implementation of the 2012 law which mandated a gap between the time an animal is given a drug and extraction of a food product from the animal as mentioned above. If it is implemented production cost will go up… so it is very likely that chicken and eggs will continue to have serious consequences on humans because of residue of antibiotics and hormones given to poultry as a food additive to prevent disease and promote growth.


This was vindicated by a lab study released in August 2014 by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which found antibiotic residues in 40% of the muscles, kidneys and livers of chicken samples they tested. The presence of six antibiotics: oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline, and doxycycline (class tetracyclines), enrofloxacin and ciprofloxacin (class fluoroquinolones) and neomycin (an aminoglycoside) were checked for – 17.1% had more than one antibiotic residue. Residues of five of the six antibiotics up to 131.75 micrograms per kilogram, were found in samples tested. Experts and doctors in Delhi and Bangalore reiterated that regular consumers of chicken meat (and eggs) were developing antibiotic resistance. The CSE said the antibiotics used cause an inflammation of the gut mucosa, resulting in faster growth. Roxarsone is anti-microbial and a growth hormone believed to be a source of arsenic contamination in poultry. And as expected, Ventakeshwara Hatcheries immediately claimed that antibiotic residue in check was way below international standards which of course means nothing!

A 2016 study found 11% chickens sampled at fresh produce markets around Hyderabad carried a multi-drug-resistant form of a bacteria commonly found in birds and known to sicken people. These super-germs were detected in both the intensive farm broilers and others. Scientists said this indicated an alarming consequence of the nation’s fast-growing poultry industry and the misuse of antibiotics. The meat was causing hard-to-treat infections in people.

Again in 2017 it was declared that poultry may make consumers resistant to antibiotics. Researchers from the US based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) collected random samples from 530 birds in 18 poultry farms in Punjab and tested them for resistance to a range of antibiotic medications critical to human medicine. They found high levels of antibiotic resistant pathogens in chickens being raised for eggs (42%) and meat (87%), thus posting serious health hazards for humans. Unsurprisingly two-thirds of the farms reported using antibiotics for promoting growth.

Interestingly, chicken legs from USA (obviously full of antibiotics as the country has voluntary standards for antibiotic use) are likely to be imported into India. And, more interestingly, American researchers have in 2015 predicted that by 2030 Indian will be consuming 4,743 tonnes of chicken reared on strong antibiotics.

Industry sources say that for healthy growth of birds, the temperature at the farm needs to be maintained at around 25-30 degrees Celsius which does not happen in summer when there is a shortage of water and power too, as a result of which many birds die. Cold waves can also kill the birds as happened in Junnar taluka (Maharashtra) during January 2011 when around 3 lakh chicks, which were expected to be ready for sale in 40 days, died.

Interestingly, a Perdue University study of the population of chicken reared for commercial purposes around the world found that commercial breeding for meat and eggs had resulted in 50% or more of the diversity of ancestral breeds being lost and with disease resistant genes having disappeared, chicken are prone to very many more illnesses.

The chicks are separated from their mothers at birth. The job of segregating male and female chicks is done by a “chick-sexer”. (The only chick sexing institute that teaches this in India is in Kerala.) The vent technique entails pushing the faeces out of the tiny chick thus opening the anal vent. If a spot and an accompanying bump are visible, the chick is a male, but if the area is flat the chick is female. Thousands of chicks are checked in quick succession resulting in poor handling coupled with little respect for the small and delicate lives. The demand is mainly for female chicks which are used for breeding. Excess male chicks not to be raised as broilers are generally killed by crushing whereas the female ones are raised for egg production. At public exhibitions the poultry industry has been known to gift small, yellow, cute chicks to children. Never accept them. They are “unwanted material” which never survives.

Hundreds of coloured chicks have been rescued in by animal activists from roadside sellers in many cities of India. They are mostly “unwanted” males, dipped in cheap bright coloured dyes – many do not survive the ordeal. Not all chicks are dumped in a vat of colour soon after hatching. They could have been dyed via injections containing hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and food colours, inserted into the eggs. Such chicks are commonly sold in China, Malaysia, Morocco, Yemen, and in USA during the run-up to Easter. New feathers are normal, so when the coloured fluff falls off the attraction is lost and the birds are discarded.

Transport of Chickens/Hens
The treatment of live chickens during transport to selling points and butcheries is an everyday sight. They are transported to far away cities in overcrowded Lorries without food and water and often subjected to the hot sun or rain for long hours. They can also be seen carried upside down in bunches hanging from the handlebars of bicycles, their legs tied together, or crammed into baskets in suffocating conditions, kept by the roadside for sale. They are sometimes taken directly to restaurants where they await slaughter upon orders received from customers.

Investigations by animal rights activists have revealed that there is a lot of rough handling involved: when the workers catch hold of the birds and load them into Lorries their leg bones, wings and heads get injured and often fractured, it is a similar story when the birds are unloaded. If they fall off the bicycles on which they are being carried up-side-down, they get caught in the wheels and are ripped apart. Again, they are roughly pulled out from the tiny cages in which they have been stuffed – waiting outside the restaurant which will turn them into tandoori chicken – and their necks are slit, then immediately dumped into scalding water to facilitate removal of feathers.

Illegal, unhygienic roadside shops where chickens are slaughtered and their flesh sold (often alongside mutton) are found in every town and city simply because Municipalities tend to look the other way and when and if they don’t, the fines imposed are so very nominal they make no impact upon these outlets and business continues as usual.

The agents of food poisoning include:
Salmonella, the source of which is especially poultry, raw meat, milk and eggs.
• Clostridium perfringens, the source of which is mainly poultry, meat, flies, cockroaches, animal and human excreta.
Avian/Bird Flu
Like Bird Flu, Ranikhet disease has claimed the lives of thousands of chickens in hatcheries, but since the viral disease is not communicable to humans or other birds and animals, attention given is restricted to merely vaccinating the birds.

The first outbreak of Avian/Bird Flu in India in 2006 made people scared to consume eggs and broiler chickens as a result of which the demand fell. Massive losses were incurred by the poultry sector due to “culling” thousands of chickens (and other fowl such as ducks in the area). Ten years later the situation is no better with hundreds of outbreaks having taken place in-between. It was therefore not surprising when in January 2017 both the UAE and Hong Kong suspended import of poultry products from India due to an outbreak in a part of Kerala of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. However, India’s export of poultry products had surged over 3 years to $117.4 million in 2015-16, compared with $92.8 million in 2013-14.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows 249 human deaths from the H5N1 strain of virus (bird flu) across the world and 397 confirmed infections since the virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003. Moreover the WHO has listed the 2008 outbreak in West Bengal as the worst-ever in India since more than 4.32 million birds had to be culled. Less than three months of being declared as bird flu free, the disease struck West Bengal again in January 2010. Bird flu struck again in February 2011: 2,000 chickens and ducks died in 17 days in Tripura resulting in the state government immediately killing more than 20,500 chickens and ducks and destroying lakhs of eggs up to a 10 km radius of the infected area. Bird flu yet again resurfaced in West Bengal in September 2011. The five Indian states bordering Bangladesh (West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam and Tripura) are said to be vulnerable to bird flu with Dhaka failing to check the contagious disease and due to smuggling of chicken and duck products into India. And, the latest news from Agartala was that in January 2012 an alarm was raised over a possible outbreak of bird flu in Tripura following the death of more than 600 poultry in Dhalai district. This was followed by bird flu being detected for the first time in Orissa and culling in Meghalaya too which hit poultry exports.

Every now and then poultry in different parts of India get infected with bird flu. As soon as a few birds test positive, culling commences… hundreds, if not thousands, are killed. Instead of being injected and buried, but they are often burnt alive. But that doesn’t happen to wildlife. Birds in sanctuaries, lakes and zoos have lost their lives due to bird flu. For example in October 2016, at least 20 died beginning with 5 ducks on the Hauz Khas lake followed by 12 water birds in the Delhi zoo and 3 crows in Sundar Nagar. Since some of these samples tested positive for bird flu, poultry from chicken mandis was also tested.

In fact, recurring and fast spreading bird flu in the North East India and other remote areas has made the National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC) call for backyard poultry farming to be banned since the organised sector always blames them for spreading it. (The NECC is an umbrella organisation representing large segments of the country’s poultry industry.) However, the National Institute of Virology (NIV) suspects that the virus spreads from migratory birds to ducks and then to other poultry. It puts the Rs 40,000 crore poultry sector in loss, also due to a drop in exports to the Middle East. During outbreaks of bird flu the Government gives compensation for culled birds. It is all a matter of money, no thought is actually given to lives expect that in having to kill them huge economic losses are incurred by the poultry industry.

Interestingly, in 2011 NIV scientists found a new strain of bird flu, similar to the one from Vietnam that killed over 500 crows in different cities of Jharkhand.

Bird flu affects not only chickens but all other fowl and birds such as ducks and pigeons have also been killed by the Rapid Response Teams. Ways and means are sort to put an end to the bird flu by many and one such organisation, the Andhra Pradesh Bio-Diversity Board has identified a grey jungle fowl in Chittoor district that is resistant to bird flu. There are hopes of being able to transfer the responsible gene from this bird to others.

In 2011 January, British scientists developed genetically modified chickens by introducing a new gene into them that manufactures a small “decoy” so that they can not transmit bird flu infections. The experts said that while the GM chickens still got sick and died when they were exposed to H5N1 bird flu, they didn’t transmit the virus to other chickens they came into contact with. Their aim was to reduce the economic impact of the disease and reduce the risk posed to people.

In 2011 a Dutch scientist found after testing on ferrets (often used as proxies for humans) that the deadly bird flu virus was just three mutations away from evolving into a pandemic strain that could easily transmit among mammals (i.e. human to human) instead of only being transmitted from birds to humans.

The Look of Poultry Farming in the Future
Years ago, nobody had much use for the feathers, heads, and legs of chickens after they were killed. They were then genuine waste-products; today these body parts are used on a commercial basis to produce fertiliser (poultry refuse) and animal feed. Chicken feet (called phoenix talons in China) are even exported to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. The poultry industry has now put a price on what was once waste and this business flourishes more than before. Therefore, the dangers of using something, on the pretext that it is “only” a by-product, should be apparent: even if one is not responsible for any killing in the present, one might be responsible for increasing the profitability of the killing. The Poultry Federation of India has plans for carcass utilisation to convert all the refuse of animals into edible meat, fertiliser and fat for candle units.

The NECC was up in arms over the Brazilian Association of Chicken Producers and Exporters announcing a deal in August 2008, to export unprocessed poultry to India, potentially reaching 300,000 tonnes (10% of what they export worldwide) in the first year. They felt that such imports would drastically affect the domestic poultry industry although the import of chickens is probably because of the industry slowdown due to multiple crises of rising input costs which are largely dependent upon the cost of maize and soy fed to poultry, and the bird flu which caused forced killing of more than a million chickens over the last couple of years.

To increase their sales, the poultry industry the world over is constantly experimenting to produce “better” (read cheaper) chicken for the table. For example, the Hebrew University in Israel have bred featherless chicken for warm climates which they say is faster growing, and as no plucking is needed, money will be saved by processing plants. In short, lives don’t count – only money matters.

On the other hand, research at the University of Delaware using chicken feathers is being undertaken to produce energy. The fibres in feathers are composed of a protein called keratin. When heated in the absence of oxygen keratin forms structures similar carbon nanotubes which are ideal for storage of hydrogen to be used as gas. And, a study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln feels that chicken feathers are an inexpensive and abundant source for development of thermoplastics (one of the two major groups of plastics that include nylon, polyethene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and others) widely used to make consumer and industrial products ranging from toothbrush bristles to car bumpers. In UK and USA, processes to clean and powder egg shells to fill biodegradable plastics that bolster strength were developed in 2016.

Giri Raja, a breed of chickens used for both meat and eggs was developed in Bangalore. It has been touted as a better breed since the birds will not develop health problems because of intensive breeding. Otherwise poultry is reared specifically for either meat or eggs.

Wild chicken called Kadaknath/Kali Masi, now bred in poultry farms under the Kadaknath Yojana set up by the Madhya Pradesh Government for Rs 418 crore is the only place where these completely black coloured hen-like birds are found. Their survival in the wild is under grave threat as very few are seen in Jhabua, occupied by the Bhil and Bilala Adivasi tribes.

The Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency has approved a poultry-waste power plant is to be set up in Barwala (Panchkula district). The estimated cost of the project is around Rs 40 crore and the Haryana Poultry Farmers Association will have a stake in the power plant. 775 tonne of poultry waste is expected to be used daily in order to generate 6 mw of power. In April 2011 Haryana stated that the state had 133 big poultry farms with 3 lakh birds each; an hi-tech farm with 10 lakh birds was coming up at Jind; and that Gurgaon was no longer a big poultry hub because a poultry farm owner could earn much more selling the land on which his farm stands, than he would earn by selling chicken and eggs in his entire life. (Strange but true that the chicken and eggs are marketed in Delhi and other places since Haryana is basically a vegetarian state.)

The National Rural Livelihood Mission scheme launched in 2013-14 meant for the economically deprived women charges Rs 2,250 for 25 1-month old chicks. Similarly, in October 2018 Uttar Pradesh launched a scheme under which 50 chicks were given free to women to fight malnutrition. However, the majority of the chicks died.

In September 2018 the Maharashtra Animal Husbandry Commissioner made it mandatory for poultry farms with 5,000 birds or with a capacity of hatching 500 eggs per cycle to be registered. Around 19000 such farms were in existence. Furthermore other advisories issued included a series of dos and don’ts for the sector. In particular they were prohibited from giving growth hormones and phosphate to the birds and antibiotics were to be regulated. Most important, a 7 day cooling period was to be observed before the birds are sold for human consumption.

Blood Money
The VH Group (Venkateshwara Hatcheries) has made so much blood money that in November 2010 their newly formed company Venky’s London Ltd took over the Blackburn Rovers Football and Athletic club for GBP 23 million. By 2012 the fan base was found to be dwindling due to poor management and performance. So, all that they could possibly claim was having raised global awareness of their brand.

End-2011 restaurant chains and brands like KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Yummiez, Dixy Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, Bangs and TGIFriday reported a spike in chicken sales during the year. It is sad that meat eating is being introduced and popularised in India and animal rights activists were unable to drive the foreign ones out of the country.

Chicken biryani has been made popular by politicians who feed it daily to their workers during campaigns. The distribution of non-veg food is a part of the campaign and for which many animals are specially slaughtered.

Unfortunately the success of poultry farming can be mainly attributed to Government support by way of liberal credit schemes by Banks and promotion of egg consumption via the national media. Also, had the Government of India not included intensive poultry farming as an agricultural activity, this killing industry would not have grown to the extent it has today. Poultry research is funded in Government run institutions and universities and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (APEDA) assists with infrastructure development for export. APEDA also provides an airfreight subsidy for exports of eggs and egg products, mostly to the UAE. Total Government support for the poultry sector was Rs 105 million in fiscal year ending March 2005.

Although unsuccessful, BWC has periodically strongly objected to the setting up of different national boards like the National Meat and Poultry Processing Board, to promote meat, poultry, fish, etc. Quite frankly, it is not the job of the Government to be promoting the business of killing.  

In 2015 the NECC did not hesitate to appeal to the Government of India to grant a moratorium for a period of one year on repayment of interest and bank loans availed by the poultry industry, interest subvention of at least 6% for a period of 3 years, and additional working capital loans to meet the increase in the cost of production. The body stated that for 4 years there had been an increase in cost of poultry feed but the farm-gate price of eggs and broilers had not increased. The average cost of broilers had increased from Rs 65-67 per kg live weight to Rs 70-75 whereas the average farm-gate price was Rs 60-65 resulting in a loss. Similarly, the average cost of production for egg had gone up from Rs 2.60 per egg last year to Rs 3.50 but the farm-gate price was no more than Rs 3.25. It was difficult to believe the industry was running at a loss, that too for years.

In the CD circulated by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) they have recommended the following for Poultry farmers:

“Poultry Broiler Farming:

Disease Prevention/Control: Any bird showing advanced signs of a disease should be removed from the shed and culled. It can be sent to laboratory for diagnosis. (BWC explanation: if sick, kill.)

“Rats are important carriers of poultry disease. Avoid rats. Use suitable rat poisons/rat traps.” (BWC explanation: Kill poultry for cash. Kill rats too.)

“Processing/Marketing: Ensure the constant and steady demand for broiler meat is available and the market is nearer to the farm.” (BWC explanation: aggressively market chicken meat.)

“Birds should not be kept on the farm beyond 6-7 weeks of age, as their feed efficiency will go down considerably.” (BWC explanation: should not be kept = kill; feed efficiency will go down = less cash will be realised.)

The above recommendations for poultry farming by NABARD (who represent the Government of India) are as outrageous, if not worse than those given by them for sheep and dairy farming. In fact, NABARD recommends the breeding of many species of animals/birds/fish with the sole aim of killing them – for commercial gain. Beauty Without Cruelty sees it as hinsa/killing in the so-called land of ahinsa/no-killing.

In short, poultry farming is nothing but a business that kills and aims to expand (read breed more, kill more) in which integrators enter into agreements with farmers and supply day-old chicks, feed and medicines. Farmers get continuous training on broiler management and technology to produce killed ready to cook and ready to eat carcasses.

Not only NABARD, but the Kerala state government feels it should be promoting poultry farming and what could be worse than to introduce it to school girls in 500 schools in Palakkad. The first poultry club scheme was inaugurated in February 2014 at the Government Moyan Girls High School under which 5 chickens would be given free to 100 students so that they were encouraged to “take up food production at a young age”.

Last but not least, the Government in order to protect India’s poultry industry has permitted import of chicken parts with a customs duty of 110% and has stringent food safety norms. Given that Indians like to eat chicken legs whereas chicken breasts are preferred by Europeans and Americans, foreigners want to export the legs and wings to our country with an import duty of 37%. Estimated annual exports are valued at $ 300 million.

Genetic Engineering
Unfortunately India has not banned genetic engineering and cloning of farm animals aimed at boosting egg, meat or milk production. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee did however in August 2010 oppose the development of transgenic chicken at the Project Directorate on Poultry, Hyderabad.

Precious Grain Consumed by Poultry

One of the least-known or acknowledged facts of the meat-based diet is that it is the main cause of making food that is grown unavailable to hungry humans. This is especially true in the intensive method poultry farming. Grains that are perfectly edible by humans, such as maize and soy meal (and when expensive wheat, millet/bajra, broken rice and rice-bran) are instead fed to chickens that are then killed to eat their flesh. More than 80% of the maize/corn grown in India and up to 50% per or at least 3 million tonnes which is roughly one-third of India’s production of soy meal is fed to chickens annually. In fact the Indian poultry industry consumes close to 15 million tonne of feed annually with an estimated value of Rs 15,000 crore. Bumper corn and soy crops always reduce the price of poultry feeds which constitute close to 70% of production costs. (Interestingly, Bihar produces 10% of India’s corn whereas the highest producers of poultry feed are Andhra Pradesh at 17%, then Rajasthan at 14%, followed at 12% by Madhya Pradesh.) In 2012 after a sharp increase in prices of maize (from Rs 950 to Rs 1,400 per quintal) and soy meal (from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,200 per quintal) the NECC appealed to the government to ban exports and forward trading in these commodities so that it curbs speculation and hoarding. They also appealed for the allocation of at least 10,00,000 tonnes of wheat from the Food Corporation of India – grain meant for human consumption. Interestingly, beginning October 2014 no major corn export deal was signed (due to high prices) which resulted in excess with producers who began selling more as poultry feed which in turn resulted in 10% more chickens being bred.

At the end of 2014 the poultry market declared it had grown to 80% consumption in urban India and was expanding in rural India due to lower prices. As a preventive measure, in March 2007 India had imposed restrictions on import of poultry products from USA and other countries where avian influenza had been reported citing concerns over avian influenza (the ban covered live chicks, ducks, turkeys and other avian species) but it was actually fear of American frozen chicken legs (taang) flooding the country’s markets. (In USA chicken breasts are in demand, but legs are unwanted and therefore they are exported to countries where chicken legs are in high demand.) In 2012, USA filed for formal consultations at the World Trade Organisation because India continued to impose a ban on the import of poultry and poultry products. The World Trade Organisation ordered India to import American chicken but in January 2015, India challenged the order due to having limited system of storage and distribution of frozen meat. In June 2015 India lost its appeal and the ruling stated that India’s ban on import of poultry meat, eggs and live pigs from the US was “inconsistent” with international norms; and that in 1 to 1½ years US could begin exporting these products to India. However, at first poultry producers said they were not bothered because almost 96% of consumption in India was of live birds and just 4% of frozen meat. Later they were worried because a whole American chicken costs one-third the price of an Indian chicken and the legs which would be coming into India would therefore be dirt cheap. Then in 2016 the industry began strongly objecting to import on the grounds that chickens in USA were fed GM corn and soy and that was the reason why American chicken meat was so cheap, although some producers said they were not worried because the import was mainly frozen legs whereas whole “fresh” chickens were preferred here. However, the objection raised in 2017 was that pig fat was fed to the US chicken and this could create a religious issue in India.

The Indian poultry market was estimated to be worth Rs 90,000 crore, 65,000 million eggs and 3.8 million tonnes of broiler chickens were produced annually and for which 12 million tonnes of maize and 4 million tonnes of soy meal were needed.

Interestingly, in USA subsequent to the 2012 “corn disaster” pork and chicken, followed beef on the menu of expensive meats. The cost of the main ingredients in animal feed, corn and soy, rose due to the worst drought in half a century. (American ruminants were then fed what ever was cheap or available free, ranging from cookies to orange peels.) One would say the right time to directly consume corn and soy, and stop feeding them to animals and kill them for meat, but unfortunately it did not happen.

Similarly during the 2016 drought of Maharashtra the poultry industry faced a rise in the price of maize and scarcity of soy meal and water of course, resulting in production falling by over 30% and at least 10% poultry units closing down. (Till then Maharashtra was producing 3.5 crore chickens per month of which 50 lakh kgs was supplied to Mumbai. However, later in the year when the poultry sector was hit by a cash crunch due to demonitisation bringing down sales by 60%, they declared that till then 1,300 tonnes of chicken meat was consumed per day from 15,000 poultry farms and the total turnover of the poultry industry was Rs 300 crore of which the unorganised retail sector was 80%.)

The feed-to-meat ratio: 2.5 kilograms of grain needs to be fed to poultry to produce the same amount of protein found in 500 grams chicken. (The conversion ratio is far less than for pigs and cows whose meats have religious taboos.)

If nothing else, this information should make people immediately stop consuming chicken and eggs as a step towards ending starvation. And, those who are considering investment in poultry and allied products should remember that for some reason or other this industry sees high instances of fraud and misappropriation by employees.

Demanding Closure
In July 2012 the people of Vizianagaram district in Andhra Pradesh wanted to make sure that a poultry farm in their area perishes – their protests against the stink (air pollution) resulting in health problems for the villagers, were not working. A mob therefore barged into the Radha Sakku Agro Bio Pharma poultry farm and switched off the power supply. The farm authorities said this resulted in the death of 7 lakh birds. The birds, bred for slaughter, were going to be killed any way so let’s hope that at least this one farm is not resurrected.

That’s not all, because a worm was found in a chicken dish, in October 2012 Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Thiruvanantapuram under orders from the Food Safety Authorities had to down its shutters.

In 2015 almost 100 small and medium poultry farms in Maharashtra at Sangli, Satara, Solapur, etc. were forced to shut down due to high production costs making it an unviable business. Luckily the hording of maize and soy continues so more poultry farms will close.

Page last updated on 04/02/19