One of the biggest determinants of how much energy is used, and greenhouse gasses created, in the production of livestock products (like chicken and other meats and dairy products) is how efficiently the animals convert feed into edible product. This is because feed represents the biggest source of these impacts. The good news is that chickens are the most efficient converters of feed into meat of all land-based livestock species.
The way we rear most chickens today, where they are housed in large sheds or barns that have been designed so that they provide, as closely as is possible, their ideal climatic conditions, where food and water are provided continuously and the birds are fed a diet which very precisely matches their ideal dietary nutrient profile for each stage of growth, all means that we can optimise the flocks’ growth and minimise the amount of feed the birds require to grow. In these farming systems we can also reduce the amount of energy that the chickens themselves need to put into maintaining their body temperature and in finding food and water.
All this translates to more efficient use of feed, energy and water to produce each kg of chicken meat – and less greenhouse gas emissions created.
The above applies for free range production systems too, where the chickens are also housed in large sheds, but additionally have access to an outdoor range area during daylight hours once they have reached an age where they are relatively safe from predation and can better cope with variable outside temperatures.
In terms of waste, used litter (the bird’s bedding plus manure which remains on the floor of the chicken shed after a batch of chickens has been collected to be processed) is taken out of the shed, loaded into trailers and trucked off, generally for use in composts or in organic fertiliser for a range of different applications, such as horticulture, viticulture, broadacre farming, pasture and turf farms. This results in virtually no wastage from chicken meat production.