It was such an honour to have Temple Grandin visit our farm last weekend. Dr. Temple is a Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University. Temple has authored many articles in scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. She is the author of “Thinking in Pictures”, “Livestock Handling and Transport”, “Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals”, and “Humane Livestock Handling”. Her books “Animals in Translation” and “Animals Make Us Human” were both on the New York Times best seller list. Her life story has been made into an HBO movie titled “Temple Grandin”, starring Claire Danes, which won seven Emmy awards and a Golden Globe.
Temple visited with Alisdair Robertson of The Butchers Nook, Tamworth , and we were presented with an ‘Australian Certified Humane’ Licensed Producer certificate.
During Temple’s visit, she encouraged us that it is always difficult to pioneer, but we should persevere, and make sure we write and pass on the knowledge we’ve gained.
Temple’s book “Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals”, written with Catherine Johnson, has a chapter titled ‘Chickens and Other Poultry’. The following excerpt from that chapter resonates greatly with us, and our work at Sommerlad Poultry:
…”Chickens have several serious welfare problems that come from bad genetics and can be fixed only with good genetics. The biggest problem in many intensively raised animals is pushing the animal’s biology for more and more production. Breeders choose the most productive animals — the fastest growing, the heaviest, the best egg layers, and so on — and selectively breed just those animals. Bad things always happen when an animal is overselected for any single trait. Nature will give you a nasty surprise”.
…”The industry has created chickens that have chronic pain in order to get birds that grow at the far outer limits of what is biologically possible. When an animal’s biological system is pushed to the point where the physiology is totally pathological, I get disgusted”.
…”The other problem is that modern broiler chickens have been bred to have stupendous appetites so they’ll grow super-fast and reach market weight as soon as possible. The trouble is that the breeder chickens, the parents of the broilers, have the same stupendous appetites as their chicks. If you let a broiler breeder chicken eat everything she wants, she will become obese, her fertility will decline, and her life will be shortened. These chickens have to be kept on a strict diet just to maintain normal weight. They act miserable, and many of them develop stereotypies. These birds have low welfare no matter what you do. If you let them eat all they want, they have bad welfare and if you don’t let them eat all they want, they also have bad welfare. It’s terrible. The industry is going to have to breed parent stock with smaller appetites. There’s no other way to fix the problem”.