When we reflect on the recent wins for farm animals, from the rapid abandonment of hens kept in cages to the enthusiastic uptake of plant based food, there is one area that remains sorely neglected.

Our staple meat

Chicken is America’s favorite meat. Each year 9 billion chickens, or 95 percent of all factory farmed animals, are raised and slaughtered in the United States alone, for one purpose: to end up on our forks.

FARM TO FORK: Ninety-five percent of all factory farmed animals are raised and slaughtered in the United States.

Temple Grandin, a renowned animal welfare scientist, has referred to the modern chicken as ‘genetically lame.’ They are born to suffer, selectively bred to grow as quickly, as big and as cheaply as possible.

Behind the barn

They are pushed to their genetic limits, growing at such rapid rates that they cannot bare the weight of their own bodies, and often collapse in pain.

Kept in an overcrowded, barren and dimly lit warehouse, they have little to do but get up, eat, drink and sit back down again. Their daily place of rest is upon the feces of tens of thousands of birds from their flock and from the many flocks before them, as waste ridden litter is often not changed out for years.

These sentient beings deserve no less comfort and respect than our pets, yet there are no animal welfare laws in place to protect them on the farm or in the slaughter plant. Improvements—adopting slower growth rates and better living conditions—are within our grasp. Not long ago, we were unsure that food companies would ever abandon the cage for egg-laying hens.

Today it is unthinkable, even disastrous, for a business to announce anything less than the rejection of that cage. Changing the lives of chickens holds the very same potential that the caged laying-hen issue once had, and is arguably the most pressing issue we’ve had in animal welfare given the billions of animals involved.