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What broiler chicken can tell us about the Anthropocene

The meat is a sure shot indicator that we’re in the next phase of human history

Broiler chickens are strong indicators of the Anthropocene.
Broiler chickens are strong indicators of the Anthropocene. (Thomas Iversen, Unsplash)

Food is a significant indicator of human-induced environmental change. An article published by Agence France-Presse (AFP) titled Proof humans reshaped the world? Chickens reported that broiler chicken is an indicator of the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene defines a period of time where humans have impacted the environment to such an extent that it leads to significant geological changes. While scientists continue to debate when the period began, most believe that the Anthropocene started in the 1950s with the rise of nuclear weapons.  

An article titled, What is the Anthropocene and why does it matter? published by the official website ( of the  UK- based Natural History Museum, notes the most significant indicators are plastic pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, and the rise of concrete and urbanization around the planet.  

Also Read | Recipe: Two ways with chicken bagel sandwich

However, one of the best indicators of the Anthropocene may, in fact, be broiler chicken. An interesting study, The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere, conducted by scientists in 2018 and published in the Royal Society science journal ( found that humans have changed the domesticated chicken in such a way such that it is now completely unfamiliar to the original birds that were domesticated thousands of years ago. For example, there has been a doubling in the body size of the chicken from the 1500s till the present day. There has been a five-time increase in body mass, too.  

Nowadays, broiler chickens cannot survive without human intervention. Changes made by selective breeding in the last 70 years mean that the chicken must eat non-stop for them to grow to the desired sizes. The study also explains that the diet of the modern broiler chicken has changed, from eating kitchen scraps to now being more grain-based with barley, maize, and wheat. Growing feed for these chickens releases double the amount of greenhouse gases than growing staple crops like rice, wheat, or potatoes, making the breeding of broiler chicken environmentally unsustainable too, reveals the study.

However, with the rapid development in food technology, all hope is not lost. Last month, the United States gave approval to two companies, Good Meat and Upside Foods to sell lab-grown chicken in the country. In Europe, too, companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) are opening food innovation labs to develop plant-based alternatives to meat that have the same taste, consistency, and flavour, but produce 30-90% less greenhouse gas than regular meat, reports the story, Plant-based 'meat' 'healthier and more sustainable than animal products, by the science website ScienceDaily in 2022.

Also Read | The US gives the green signal to sell lab-grown meat



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