Facts and Figures
Welcome to my facts and figures page; where you can find out some of the interesting things about factory farming and the shocking figures that highlight the desperate need for change.
Facts about farming
- Global meat production has quadrupled since the early 1960s from 71 million tonnes to over 290 million tonnes in 2010 (FAO).
- Two out of every three farm animals in the world are now factory farmed.
- There are more animals factory farmed in the world now than at any other time in history.
- Worldwide, about 70 billion farm animals are now reared for food each year.
Chickens and hens
- There are over 35 million laying hens currently producing eggs in the UK; around half of these are kept in non-cage systems.
- Commercial laying hens in the UK are slaughtered after only 12 months of laying, when their productivity begins to decline. Their ancestors – the jungle fowl – naturally live for around 10 years.
- Factory farmed chickens are bred to reach a weight of 2.2 kilograms in just five weeks; this is well beyond their natural limits and causes great suffering.
- A typical stocking density in the UK and Europe for broiler chickens is equivalent to around 17–20 birds per square metre as they approach slaughter weight, i.e. a space allowance of less than one A4 sheet of paper per chicken.
- A typical supermarket chicken today contains more than twice the fat, and about a third less protein than 40 years ago.
- A chicken shed holding 100,000 broiler chickens for meat can emit up to 77 kilos of polluting dust every day.
- About two-thirds of chickens on sale in the UK have been found to be contaminated with the food poisoning bug, campylobacter.
- In 2011 the UK slaughtered around 850 million broiler chickens, resulting in around 1.5 million tonnes of chicken meat. The average poultry meat consumption in the UK is 31kg per person per year, with a total consumption of around 1.9 million tonnes (2010).
Cows for meat and dairy
- There are over 260 million cows used to produce milk in the world, including 24 million in the EU27, nine million in the USA and around two million in the UK.
- A kilogram of beef takes the equivalent of 90 bathtubs of water to produce.
- Whereas a suckler cow would naturally produce around 4 litres of milk per day, a dairy cow will produce around 24 litres per day on average for a period of 10 months.
- Dairy cows typically live to only their third or fourth lactation before being culled. Naturally, a cow can live for 20 years.
- In order to continue to produce milk, dairy cows give birth to a calf every year and will typically become pregnant again three months after calving.
- Piglets born into factory farms often have their tails docked and their teeth clipped, usually without any form of anaesthesia.
- A gestation crate – or sow stall – confines a sow during her 114 day pregnancy. It is so small that she cannot even turn around. Sow stalls are illegal in the UK and their use will be restricted to the first 4 weeks of pregnancy in the EU from 2013.
- More than 326 million rabbits are farmed for food in the EU every year, with the majority being kept in cramped barren battery cages.
- For the production of foie gras, force-feeding geese increases the size of the liver by up to ten times and the fat content of the liver exceeds 50%.
Don’t forget the fish
- Worldwide, aquaculture production is growing at an average rate of 6% per year, whilst capture fisheries production has remained static for the past decade. Half of all fish directly consumed by humans is now farmed.
- Mortality rates of farmed fish are often very high compared with other farmed animals. For example, mortality of salmon reared in sea cages in Scotland is around 18%. Such high mortality rates would not be considered acceptable in other branches of farming.
- Growth-enhanced transgenic Atlantic salmon have been produced that can grow 3-6 times faster than ordinary salmon.
- Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout are often starved for several days, sometimes for two weeks or more, before slaughter to empty the gut. Such prolonged periods of starvation are unacceptable from a welfare viewpoint. Starvation or feed reduction is also sometimes used to adapt production levels to the market situation. The purpose is to keep the fish off the market when market prices are low in the hope that prices will rise before the fish have to be sold.
Impacts on the environment, health and food security
- Livestock consume a third of the global grain harvest.
- Globally, the current livestock industry overall contributes 18 per cent of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire contribution of human transport.
- Every year, an area of forest equivalent to half the UK is cleared, much of it to grow animal feed and for cattle ranching.
- An area of land equivalent to the size of the European Union is used to grow feed for farm animals.
- Farm animals are more prone to campylobacter infection when stressed.
- Overuse of antibiotics in animals is causing more strains of drug-resistant bacteria, with potentially devastating consequences for the treatment of various life-threatening diseases in humans.
- Over 70% of globally threatened wild birds are said to be impacted by agricultural activities.
- Around 30% of the nitrogen that pollutes water in the EU and US is from livestock, more than 70% in China.
- On average, to produce 1kg of animal protein requires nearly 6kg of protein in the form of feed grains.
(Last updated May 2012)