As the U.S. marks another Earth Day, it’s important to remember chicken’s winning sustainability message.
Earth Day 2022
Earth Day is an annual occasion to reflect on the state of our environment and man’s impact on it.
The event, originally celebrated on April 22, 1970, was started by students upset about an oil spill near Santa Barbara, California, and grew into a national movement due to public outcry about other notable pollution incidents in the late 1960s. Today, when we think of Earth Day the focus is climate change and humanity's role in it.
According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s April 2022 press release on the subject, between 2010 and 2019 average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history. However, the rate of growth has slowed and there’s mounting evidence of climate-focused actions working.
“Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach,” the press release stated.
On Earth Day, it’s likely some in the popular press – or on social media – will demonize the meat industry due to its supposed role in greenhouse gas emissions. In the same breath, the benefits of a vegan, vegetarian or reduced-meat lifestyle will be touted. True believers will likely say alternative proteins, and cultivated meats, are mankind’s only savior.
While the average consumer is vaguely worried about it, the environment is just one more abstract concern clouding their mind as they shop. The key motivators for buying are, and will be, best price and best nutrition.
Younger Americans are putting more emphasis on the environment and choosing brands they believe are more sustainable. However, it remains to be seen if those shoppers will consistently purchase a similar, more expensive food for life.
Thanks to generations of efforts by breeders, integrators and growers, today’s chickens are incredibly efficient. In terms of resource consumption per pound of meat produced, chicken is the most efficient terrestrial livestock animal. Consumers, in the U.S. and abroad, benefit from this daily. Moreover, chicken and eggs are both superfoods boasting high protein and nutrient content.
The only thing that could derail the chicken success story would be a widespread adoption of a slower-growing broiler breed. This would directly undermine efficiency gains and significantly increase the environmental impact of chicken production. Animal activist groups desperately desire to disrupt the chicken industry as they have the U.S. egg industry.
Nevertheless, poultry marketers must take advantage of the sustainability message. Chicken and eggs aren’t only healthy, tasty and cheap. They bring the least environmental impact of any animal product available.