82% of caged broilers are burned by urine

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1995:

LONDON––Examining the carcass-
es of 384 broiler hens raised according to the
British Farm Standard and offered for sale on
supermarket shelves, an investigation commis-
sioned by the Royal SPCA and directed by
Cambridge University professor Donald
Broom reported in July 2005 that 82% had
been burned on their legs or bodies by pro-
longed contact with ammonia from feces.
“Lack of space and fast-growing
bodies that can become too heavy to be sup-
ported by their legs increases the likelihood of
birds receiving painful burns, as the birds
spend more time in contact with floor litter,”
said RSPCA scientific officer Marc Cooper.

Among 25 organically raised free
range chickens whose carcasses were inspect-
ed, 42% had burns, the researchers found.
The RSPCA findings were released
five weeks after the BBC Programme Com-
plaints Unit upheld a British Poultry Council
complaint that the BBC “Food Police Prog-
ramme” showed bias against the poultry indus-
try in a 2004 expose of ammonia burns.
“The use of surreptitiously filmed
material and reference to Compassion In World
Farming campaign efforts did not of them-
selves give rise to bias” the Complaints Unit
said, “but, together with other features of the
item, they implied criticisms of the poultry-
rearing industry which there should have been
an opportunity to address.
“One section described poultry sit-
ting in their own urine,” the Complaints Unit
continued. “However, as chickens do not uri-
nate, but excrete urate crystals which are rela-
tively dry, the suggestion of chickens sitting in
urine-soaked litter was somewhat misleading.
The impression given by the use of surrepti-
tiously filmed material and the associated com-
mentary was also misleading, in the absence
of a reply on behalf of the industry, as to the
extent to which the issue of hock burn had
been recognized and was being addressed.”
The RSPCA also reported in July
2005 that British battery caged egg market
share has fallen from 86% to 66% over the past
10 years. Free range egg market share soared
from 11% to 27% during the same decade.
Asda supermarket chain strategy
manager Chris Brown in June 2005 told
Farmer’s Weekly Interactive that free range
egg sales in Britain are growing at 22% per
year. Asda is the British Walmart subsidiary.
Free range eggs have only 2% of the
U.S. egg market share, but got a boost on June
1 when the 75-store, 23-state Wild Oats
Natural Marketplaces chain discontinued sell-
ing cage-produced eggs.
“This makes Wild Oats the first
national retailer to officially commit exclusive-
ly to cage-free eggs for its approved national
and regional product lists,” HSUS Fund for
Animals president Mike Markarian said.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Wild
Oats is the second largest U.S. health food
retailer. Whole Foods Inc. has 166 stores.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in
January 2005 announced the formation of a
new nonprofit called the Animal Compassion
Foundation, to promote a set of “Animal
Compassionate Standards” within the retail
food industry, but has not yet committed
Whole Foods to selling only free range eggs.
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