This is the story of one of the most important
animals in modern history. Chickens, the world’s chicken population is over
twenty three billion. Making them the most numerous species of bird on the
planet. Over sixty billion are slaughtered for food every year. Compared to one
point five billion pigs. And three hundred million cattle. Chicken meat consumption
is increasing faster than any other meat. Driven by exploding demand in
developing countries. But the chickens we know today are not what they used to
be. They originated from the red jungle fowl, native to South and South-East
Asia. Over millennia, humans have brought them to all corners of the global.
And, in doing so, they have changed what it means to be a chicken. Modern
chickens are twice the size they were in the late medieval period. And since 1950,
their growth has accelerated; they are now five times the mass than they were
in the 1950s. They are growing so quickly that by the time they are five-six
weeks old, they are ready for slaughter. Chickens are so ubiquitous.
While humans have been selectively breeding
chickens since their domestication in South-East Asia around six thousand years
ago, the speed and scale of change in the twentieth century is far beyond
anything observed in the past. From the 1950, the chicken population has risen
in step with the rise in human population, as has our use of fossil fuels,
plastics and other resources. Now, this animal is more numerous than any bird
species in Earth history.