Some truths about factory farming in the UK

We often believe that intensive factory farming practices are an American problem. We’ve been raised on images of happy farm animals grazing in open fields; supermarkets promote ‘British beef’; we revere traditional farming practices and we pride ourselves on our animal welfare standards.

Unfortunately the truth is that the UK is responsible for over a billion industrially bred and slaughtered land animals every year.

I hope that by sharing some of the key facts on intensive UK factory farming, we can all make more informed decisions about our food choices:

  • To be classed as intensive, a farm must have warehouses with more than 40,000 birds, 2,000 pigs or 750 breeding sows.
  • The UK has seen a 26% rise in intensive factory farming in six years.
  • There are currently 800 US-style mega farms operating across the UK.
  • Our largest factory farms can house more than a million chickens, 20,000 pigs or 2,000 dairy cows.
  • Most animals are confined indoor for their entire life.
  • The lifespan of an average intensively-farmed chicken is 35 days.
  • Herefordshire is home to more than 16 million factory-farmed animals. Intensively-farmed animals in Hertfordshire outnumber the human population by 88 to one.

  • Intensive farming prevents animals from expressing their natural behaviour.
  • One A4 sheet of paper is the space designated per chicken on intensive farms.
  • North Yorkshire has the highest number of indoor-reared pigs, at over 220,000.
  • Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons, Asda, McDonalds, and Nando’s are among the supermarkets and fast food chains who source meat from companies operating factory farms.
  • The UK’s demand for cheap chicken means the majority of the UK’s megafarms are poultry units.
  • Free range and organic chicken still only accounts for a tiny proportion of the market – just 3% and 1% respectively.
  • One billion chickens are bred and slaughtered every year in the uk
  • Factory farmed chickens are fed pellets, which contain soya, minerals and additives, mixed with locally grown wheat. They drink chlorinated water.
  • Farms can be breeding grounds for food poisoning bugs such as campylobacter, E.coli and salmonella
  • Industrial scale beef units do not require a government permit in order to operate, and there are no official records on how many are in operation.
  •  Cattle raised on industrial farms may be confined in pens for up to a quarter of their lives, until they are slaughtered.
  • After spending time on pasture many cattle are moved to dedicated “finishing units” and are typically housed in barns or grazed whilst being fattened ahead of slaughter, often for around six months.

Thank you to the Guardian and the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism for their extensive research into intensive factory farming in the UK, which is where most of these facts came from.