Thursday, 8 May 2008

There's more to life than CO2

Reported via psfk, originally from the BBC

Peter Bradnock of the British Poultry Council says: "Organic poultry meat has about 45% more global warming potential than indoor-reared poultry meat. If you're rearing outside, then the bird is using a little more of its feed to keep itself warm, or simply to keep itself cool in hot climates."

It's a bit of an odd statement - what is 'global warming potential'? I tracked down the 45% source to a DEFRA study commissioned from Manchester biz school from Feb 2007:
* Organic birds require 25 per cent more energy to rear and grow than conventional methods.
* The amount of CO2 generated per bird is 6.7kg for organic compared to 4.6kg for conventional battery or barn hens.
According to this report the main difference is because: "with organic chickens the longer growing time means it has a higher impact".

Anyway that is nothing to do with the central issues of animal welfare, use of antibiotics and feed additives such as arsenic.

Carbon here is a side issue. There are 850 million chicken raised in britain a year; an average of about 14 per person per year. So on average the difference is just under 30kg of carbon dioxide vs your 11 tonne annual footprint. If you want to cut this down then eat less meat. Dont condemn animals to this:

As reported in The Independent, 4/01/08: "A covertly filmed video of factory-farmed chickens struggling to walk and enduring distressing and unnatural conditions is set to ignite a growing campaign to improve the lives of Britain's 800 million "broiler" chickens. The animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) shot the film at a farm which supplies meat to the country's leading supermarkets to illustrate the grim life inside chicken "coops" designed for 25,000 to 50,000 birds. The grainy video footage shows what looks like a white carpet of thousands of birds shuffling round aimlessly in a dimly lit shed. Some are limping or lifeless. Outside are dustbins stuffed full of dead chicks. Although their final destination is unknown, the birds were bought by a company which supplies more than 80 per cent of McDonald's chicken nuggets, as well as Morrisons, Sainsbury and the Co-op."

Bradnock has been on the barricades defending British chicken from the avalanche of criticism following the popular TV programmes raising awareness of the appalling, squalid conditions in which many chicken are raised in in the UK. But it isnt working. From an RSPCA survey in March:
• 73% of consumers are now buying chicken with a better life
• Almost 3 out of 4 think supermarkets should only sell higher-welfare chicken (freedom food, free range or organic)
• 90% of consumers said they would buy higher-welfare chicken because they are more concerned about how they are farmed than their own health

This thing about carbon footprints in that context looks like an appalling piece of old fashioned spin.


Anonymous said...

There will always be trade-offs when between complex issues of this sort. There are many similar discussions in Sweden.

The scary thing that you point to, is that by sowing the doubt seed that something is good, a lot of people will take it as proof that doing nothing is better. When in doubt just do business as usual, and the problem might go away, seems to be the consensus. By eating three or four organic chicken less each year, the problem is solved. For most people skipping those over fried pieces will do wonders for health as well.

Has there been any reaction from producers of organic poultry meat?

Paul F said...

This is truly a sickening bit of blatant spin.

Thankfully chicken seems to be going the way of baby food, in that people are now voting with their wallet and only buying Organic/Free range.

It doesn't matter how much spin they put on it, those images are too much to over come and the trend has started. Now if only the masses could be pushed to adopt other trends!