An undercover investigation has revealed “cruel” and “horrific” conditions on a German chicken farm that supplies discount supermarket Lidl.
The investigation found that the chickens were immobile, lame, and struggling to get up. Many were lying in their own waste, and some also had deformities and genetic conditions.
These chickens – who have been dubbed “frankenchickens” – have been selectively bred to grow unnaturally fast so they are ready to be slaughtered more quickly.
The investigation, which was recorded over the last few months and provided anonymously to Spanish NGO Equalia, also found unsanitary conditions, including chickens cannibalizing rotting corpses and a worker urinating in the chicken shed.
Claire Williams, Campaigns Manager at The Humane League UK, said: “This investigation has uncovered instances of horrific mistreatment and violence. But the majority of the chickens in these sheds are suffering not because of the workers but because of their breeding.”
She added: “The way the birds struggle to walk, their abnormally overgrown chests – these are all the hallmarks of fast-growth. Lidl’s reliance on these Frankenchickens is a reliance on cruelty.”
Despite this cruelty, much of the public remains unaware of where their chicken comes from. “The animal industry has every incentive not to show the public its practices, because they suspect there would be outcry,” Cordelia Britton, Head of Programs at The Humane League UK, told Plant Based News (PBN). Supermarket packaging often evokes outdoor farming – sunlit uplands, green pastures – of a kind that hasn’t been standard for at least half a century.”
What are ‘frankenchickens’?
This farm is not an anomaly. Around 90 percent of the one billion chickens slaughtered for for meat each year in the UK are “frankenchickens.”
These chickens will reach slaughter weight when they are around 35 days old, which maximizes their profitability. If a human baby grew at the rate they did, it would be the size of an adult tiger at eight weeks old.
These chickens are not only often subjected to horrific conditions in factory farms (with each generally getting an area of space the size of an A4 sheet of paper), but they will likely live their lives in pain too.
Health conditions associated with frankenchickens include lameness and tibial dyschondroplasia (where the cartilage is malformed). These conditions can render them unable to walk properly. They may also have spinal compression, which means they have to lie on their backs.
Due to their lack of mobility, many starve to death or die of dehydration due to being unable to access food and drink.
They may also suffer heart attacks and organ failure.
In light of the investigation, major European animal protection charities including The Humane League UK are calling on Lidl to sign the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC). This outlines a set of commitments that “eliminate the cruelest factory farming practices.” Companies signing up should adhere to the commitment’s practices by 2026.
“Supermarkets need to take responsibility; they are the ones selling the chickens, and with their financial power they possess the power to change this,” Cordelia Britton, Head of Programs at The Humane League UK, told PBN.
Find out more about the BCC here.