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Poultry production (broilers and layers)

Poultry are kept for the production of eggs and meat. Poultry are kept in most areas of the world and provide an acceptable form of animal protein to most people throughout the world.  During the last decade, many developing countries have adopted intensive poultry production in order to meet the demand for this form of animal protein.  Intensively kept poultry is seen as a way of rapidly increasing animal protein supplies for rapidly increasing urban populations: poultry are able to adapt to most areas of the world, are relatively low priced, reproduce rapidly, and have a high rate of productivity.  Poultry in the industrial system are housed in confinement with the aim of creating optimal conditions of temperature and lighting, and in order to manipulate day-length to maximise production.


The term broiler is applied to chicks that have especially been bred for rapid growth. Broiler strains are based on hybrid crosses between Cornish White, New Hampshire and White Plymouth Rock.  In broiler production there are 2 main production phases: (1) keeping of parent stock and production of day-old-chicken (d.o.c.); and (2) growing and finishing of broilers.


Rhode Island Red, Cock and Hen in a free-range environment. Photo FAO, DAD:ISLayers are efficient egg producers, breeds used for egg production in the industrial production system are almost entirely based on the White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red.  Selection and crossbreeding techniques have resulted in productive laying hens producing 15 19 kg of eggs per year.  In layer production, sometimes 2 phases of production are recognised: (1) growing phase up to approximately 140 days; and (2) productive phase from 140 560 days.

The large volumes of waste cause soil, water and air pollution. Most effects are caused by the transfer from manure of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and heavy metals (Zn and Cd).  Emissions from manure arise in the chicken houses, during storage, after application on soils or when manure is simply disposed of.  The extent of emissions depend on the systems adopted for housing and for manure management.

Surplus quantities of poultry manure have a negative effect on soil, water and air. The advantage of poultry manure compared to manure from most other species is that it generally has a higher dry matter content. As a result of the higher dry matter content, losses through evaporation and leakage are lower than with other forms of manure. Inaddition, transport cost are lower as well as processing cost in case of drying the manure.

In industrial poultry production systems uniform new breeds are developed and used.  The role of traditional indigenous breeds is diminishing and there is a danger of extinction of these breeds and loss of animal biodiversity.

Deeplitter poultry system. Photo: Arend Nell

The following matrix indicates the most common Industrial risks associated with Poultry production.

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