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British vets question health, welfare of free-range chickens

While activists tout the happier, healthier life of free-range chickens, veterinarians in Great Britain have expressed concern about their long-term sustainability and increased likelihood of a major bird flu outbreak in free-range production, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

Barry Thorp, DVM, Royal School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, argues that these free-range chickens are more likely to suffer broken bones, higher death rates, and more disease and illness.

  • Mortality rate for free-range chickens is 8-10 percent; caged hens 2-4 percent.
  • Fractured bones are twice as likely in free-range chickens compared to caged hens.
  • Disease transmission between free-range chickens and wild ducks and birds is more likely as 10 percent of ducks in the UK carry bird flu.

Currently, free-range egg production accounts for 45% of the British egg market — compared with just 1% in 1980.

 

 


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