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.