Three Chickens With Your Name On Them. Thanks For the Friday Buzz Kill, HuffPost

OK, so I started writing this post because I found the Cara Parks’ article on Huffington Post—Chickens Outnumber People Three To One—salacious in a food-nerd sort of way. But now I’m finding the data a little horrifying.

Read on…In it, she writes:

In 1960, there were just over three billion people alive in the world; now there are close to seven billion. So the global population of humans has more than doubled in 50 years. But at the same time people around the world have demanded more and more meat. (Consumption of animal products tracks closely with income, and, in the long term, per capita income has risen hugely.) So what has that meant for global livestock populations? Massive, massive growth.

In 1961, there were 3.9 billion chickens on earth, just over one per person. Now there are 19 billion, according to UN data analyzed by the Economist. That’s three for every person alive. The next most populous livestock is cattle; there are 1.4 billion of them.

Wild animals, meanwhile, have not fared as well. Since 1960, the global population of wild animals have tumbled by a quarter.

Now, I’m no economist, but I do have some questions. Given the massive numbers of religious and social vegetarians around the world and the number of people for whom chicken (or any meat) is still a luxury, the numbers grow even more staggering. My husband and I consume some chicken, but not more than one per week. I’m guessing you could probably say the same.


  • Are the numbers supply-driven or, like best-seller lists, are they based on projections?
  • What happens to all of the waste?
  • How many of those chickens end up being consumed in the US versus other countries?

Your thoughts?


  • Van

    Very efficient (if not the most efficient)commercial source of animal protein with fryers (2-3lb.) ready for slaughter as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Add in the demand for egg layers and you need a lot of chickens.

    Easy to raise in even destitute conditions, so it is a very popular meat source throughout 3rd world countries.

    Thank goodness the world likes/uses chicken instead of say…beef, which is vastly more inefficient.

  • ELH

    Commercial chicken farming is in short horrific. A fairly large number of animals die in ways unfit for human consumption either through the actions of other chickens or the environment in which they are kept. Most of these animals go to feed other animals. Battery egg farming also ends with a fairly large number of animals not consumed by humans some of which are thrown in the trash as they are not fit for consumption by any living creature. We also separate meat bird farming and egg bird farming which leads to a lot of culling of male animals on the egg farms.

  • Mishi

    Ya, and have you ever seen that documentary, I forget the name now, where they show how DISGUSTINGLY horrible the living conditions are for commercially raised chickens?! I didn’t eat much chicken before, but now…if i do, its straight from the farmer for me! Plus, have you noticed the mutant chickens companies like Purdue are cranking out?!