Stéphane Dahillel doesn’t exactly say, “Eat chicken, save the planet,” but he hints at it as he opens the door to a shed on an intensive farm in Brittany, western France.
The 30,000 chickens housed will more than triple in size within a month, and their meat will have a lower carbon footprint.
“The goal is to produce the best meat possible in the least amount of time and with the least amount of food,” Dahillel said.
The 2 million all-white chickens he produces each year (raised primarily for McDonald’s nuggets) reach slaughter weight in less than half the time it takes on a conventional farm. At 20 days old, the weight is already 1 kg, 20 times more than at birth. By the time they are slaughtered at 45 days old, they weigh over 3 kg.
smallest carbon footprint
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), chicken has the lowest carbon footprint of all meats, less than half of the 2 kg of CO2 emitted from 1 kg of pork, and 1/30th that of beef.
Cows emit large amounts of methane, which causes global warming, but chickens emit very little. According to FAO, it’s actually as much as rice, or even less if it’s grown intensively.
Dahillel argued that intensive farming is “the most efficient and rational system” to produce meat “from an economic and ecological point of view.”
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However, there are also major drawbacks. Although he claims that chickens have low emissions, producing the grain that feeds chickens requires large amounts of land, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides.
All of these affect biodiversity and water quality. In fact, a green algae outbreak on the coast of Dahillel’s hometown of Brittany, caused in part by the intensive production of pork, poultry and dairy products, has sparked environmental protests and led to several deaths. linked.
Intensive farming is also attracting attention from the perspective of animal welfare. Dahiller raises 20 chickens per square meter on bedding that contains wood shavings and buckwheat husks to absorb droppings.
Is chicken the best animal protein?
Sick or abnormal chickens are killed to avoid further suffering and because automated slaughterhouses require a homogeneous product.
“We’re not robots, of course, but we’re looking for homogeneity,” he said from his farmhouse balcony overlooking three sheds covered in solar panels.
Chicken may be the best animal protein for carbon emissions, but not necessarily the best for nature, experts say.
Pierre-Marie Aubert, from French sustainable development think tank IDDRI, said: “If we just looked at the CO2 emissions per kilogram of meat, we would all start eating chicken. But that’s not the solution. It’s a big mistake to think that.”
“If you think only from a carbon perspective, a ton of things are going to backfire in the long run,” he added.
Aubert said there has been an “extraordinary” increase in chicken consumption in recent years, making it one of the most widely consumed meats in the world, and that religious and cultural taboos associated with pork and beef have been lifted. Said it doesn’t exist.
The world is so focused on methane emissions from ruminant animals like cows and sheep that “many people think it’s enough to replace beef with chicken, when in reality we need to reduce all meat consumption.” says Lucille Logisard of the Institute for Climate Economics.