One boneless, skinless chicken breast has an average weight today of 5-6 ounces. This is an ounce higher than the average breast weight from 40 years ago. The total average weight of a chicken has grown too, with latest estimates around 6 lbs. each.
Chicken is one of the world’s popular protein meats, due to its high protein count, low calories, and low saturated fat. It has often been seen as the more healthy animal protein compared to red meat. In the U.S. alone, sales of fresh chicken in stores reached over $10 billion in 2018. To keep up with increasing global consumption, chicken farmers are growing the numbers and the sizes of broiler chickens (those bred for meat, not eggs), all at a faster pace.
Size and Growth
Chicken used to be comparatively small. The average weight of a chicken 100 years ago was about 2.5 pounds. Today’s size of a chicken is more than double that number. Chicken breasts are measurably larger too, as much as 80% larger than years ago. In fact, a pair of chicken breast fillets by themselves weigh more than 2.5 lbs. Chicken producers are not only fattening up chickens to meet this high demand, but they are also speeding up the process to meet growing global chicken consumption around the world.
Rise in US population
Chicken’s increasing popularity as a low-cost, high-protein meat dovetails with the corresponding rise in U.S. population. The latest figures show around 330 million people in the United States, while 100 years ago, the U.S. population was at 115 million. With chicken remaining a low-cost food staple, it will likely be eaten by Americans for many years to come.
Animal advocates like PETA and the Humane Society of America cite the inhumane factory conditions that chickens are fed and housed in before attaining their market size. Stories abound of chickens being grown in crowded, dusty pens filled with feces and disease.
Chickens are also far larger than their earlier predecessors. Factory-farmed chickens tend to be squeezed in closer together to maximize eating efficiency. This means less activity for the chickens, as they have less space to move. Ultimately, this leads to larger sizes of chickens, which is likely to bring more revenue to the chicken producer.
According to the National Chicken Council, there were more than 9 billion broiler chickens produced last year.