The U.S. poultry industry began to commercialize in the 1940s and has evolved into an efficient and sustainable industry.
The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association says that in the early days, each chicken required 7 kilograms of feed to achieve a 1 kilogram weight. Today, the feed amount has been reduced by more than half to grow the same size bird, all without using growth hormones or steroids. Similar gains have been achieved in turkey production, where it once took 29 weeks for a tom turkey to reach 15 kilograms, now takes just 15 weeks.
Lower feed requirements reduce the demand for corn and soybeans, which helps lower fuel consumption and exhaust emissions of harvesters. A study by Iowa State University compared the U.S. egg industry’s environmental footprint in 1960 and 2010, and highlights changes in production performance:
– 2010 laying hens had 26 percent less daily feed use, 27 percent higher hen-day egg production, 42 percent better feed conversion, 57 percent lower mortality, 32 percent less direct water use per dozen eggs produced.
– 2010 U.S. egg production of 77.8 billion eggs was 30 percent higher than 59.8 billion eggs produced in 1960. However, total 2010 environmental footprint is 63 percent lower for greenhouse gas emissions.
Poultry litter is properly managed to ensure that run-off into waterways does not occur. Farmers recycle litter in an environmentally-responsible manner, and have been advancing effective control of nutrients for more than a decade, assisted by USDA and EPA-recognized best industry practices.