Earth to Plate: Chicken Edition

Last week we started our journey to find out how your roast chicken and vegetables found their way to your table. While we have uncovered the likely origins of the carrots, potatoes and onions, we have yet to explore how the chicken arrived at a grocer near you.

The chicken or the egg?

It turns out we are going to start with the chicken and move forward from there. Your chicken got its start in a breeding flock where birds of a certain age are grouped together in order to reproduce. Once the hen has laid your newly minted egg, it is then removed from the breeding flock facility and taken to another facility called a hatchery. Once at the hatchery, your egg will be stored up to 10 days before making its way to an incubator. With your egg kept at a nice 55-68 F, development begins and a mere 21 days later out hatches a chick. The chick will then begin another journey to a grow-out facility. If you are counting, that is now three facilities your chicken has been in to grow.

Once your chick has matured into a full-grown broiler chicken, anywhere from 4 to 14 weeks, it will then be transferred to a fourth facility for processing. Once processed, packaged and chilled or frozen, your chicken will then begin its journey to a grocer near you. In total, your chicken will make at least five stops at varying facilities before you pick it out and purchase it for your dinner.

This journey is quite different than a chicken’s journey from even 70 years ago. Prior to modern refrigeration, chicken consumption was rarely a daily occurrence and chicken’s were likely shipped alive or butchered and chilled on ice prior to shipment. Chicken production was much more integrated than today’s factory farm production. Your chicken would not have traveled to several facilities and would likely have come from a small family operation. The rate of chicken consumption has sharply increased and production, specifically factory production of chickens, has increased dramatically to keep up with demand.

What’s next?

After reading about the lengthy and often energy intensive journey of your dinner, you may be looking for more earth friendly options. Tune in next Monday for alternatives that are healthy for your body and better for the earth without skimping on flavor.


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