Protein types

Poultry & Eggs

Poultry and egg production contributes to global GHG emissions mainly through feed production. Soy for poultry feed is one of the leading causes of deforestation. Like other proteins, extensive use of nitrogen to grow feed such as corn and manure from intensive poultry and egg operations pollute local waterways. Antibiotics are used routinely in poultry operations to increase feed efficiency and prevent and treat intestinal diseases.

Key stats

68
%
of companies that produce and/or sell poultry products have no emissions targets or targets that are very limited in scope

The Index includes 34 companies that produce and sell poultry products (including eggs). This includes 13 pure-play poultry-producing companies. These 34 companies contribute a total of $209 billion in revenues (65% of the total 2018 revenues for all 60 Index companies). They have a market capitalisation of $188 billion (58% of the total). The estimated revenue linked to poultry production and sales alone is approximately $76 billion.

Results

  • 41% of companies that produce or sell poultry products do not have a policy on antibiotics use.
  • 20 % is the average score achieved by poultry companies on welfare commitments. There is a lack of third-party auditing on company commitments on welfare.
  • Most companies that produce or sell chickens are not disclosing information on deforestation risks linked to soy supply chains.
  • Companies mainly manage chicken litter by applying it to farmland as fertiliser, which has significant water impairment issues.

 

Number of poultry & egg companies ranked as high, medium or low risk by factor

 

Average score across poultry & egg companies by factor

Risk factor materiality

Risk factor

 

Description
GHG emissions Nearly 78% and 69% of GHG emissions from the poultry and egg sectors are linked to feed production. This is driven by the application of fertilisers and land use change from the production of feed such as soybean. According to the FAO, eggs have higher manure emissions. This is because layer hens have a greater proportion of their manure managed in anaerobic conditions, which leads to higher methane emissions.

 

Deforestation and biodiversity loss Soy for animal feed is the leading cause of deforestation in ecologically sensitive areas in Brazil, including in the Amazon and the Cerrado. Soy meal makes up more than 35% of the content of concentrates fed to broiler chickens. I n 2017, 90% of the soy from Brazil became animal feed, 50% of which was used as chicken feed.

 

Water pollution

 

Like other meat proteins, extensive use of nitrogen to grow feed such as corn and manure from intensive poultry and egg operations pollute local waterways. These operations typically house hundreds of thousands of birds at any given time. Poultry litter contains phosphorous, which can fuel algal blooms. There are multiple community issues in the areas with a high concentration of poultry farms due to poor regulation of millions of tonnes of chicken litter.

 

Antibiotics Antibiotics are used routinely in poultry operations to increase feed efficiency and prevent and treat intestinal diseases. Studies show that antibiotics categorised as ‘highest priority critically important’ by the WHO – fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins, macrolides and polymyxins – are approved for use in poultry in the largest poultry-producing countries. The exceptions to this are fluoroquinolones in the US and cephalosporins in the EU.

 

Labour conditions The US poultry industry is increasingly the subject of campaigns by organisations such as Oxfam for poor working conditions. Companies are accused of focusing on increasing productivity at the expense of worker health, safety and welfare. One of the most controversial issues is increasing line speeds, from the current 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute, which was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) after intense lobbying from the industry. Industry consolidation has also led to concerns about the extent of control that integrated firms possess over farmers who serve as contract growers. This can lead to poor wages, no benefits, increased physical and mental stress and poor animal welfare outcomes. Similarly, a report has found that slave labour is ‘endemic’ in Brazil’s poultry industry.