I am confused by conflicting information I am finding online about the most common practices for raising chickens for meat.
I found two sources that state that meat chickens are primarily female:
Male chicks will never grow up to lay eggs and they don’t grow fast enough to raise them for meat (virtually all the chicken meat we eat comes from female birds).
"Scientists developed a way to end the brutal practice of killing male chicks", Chase Purdy, December 24, 2018, Quartz
This is an article from a news publication, but I'm not sure if it is interpreting the referenced data accurately, or if there is a confusion with the situation with chickens raised for laying eggs (where for obvious reasons, male chicks are not raised) or dual-use chickens (raised for both eggs and poultry) vs. chickens raised exclusively for meat and not for egg-laying. When I look at the linked Al-Jazeera article ("The short, brutal life of male chickens", by Elisabeth Braw, February 20, 2015), I find that it says
For the past 50 years or so, farmers and the poultry industry have begun to breed chickens to be either egg layers or meat.
Males of the egg-laying breeds are of little value, as only a few roosters are required for reproduction. A day after they’re hatched, chicks are sexed (their gender determined), with the unfortunate males heading straight to the grinder for use as animal feed.
It doesn't actually seem to say anything about what happens to males of chickens raised for meat.
The second article is just from some website, allegedly written by someone who has "always lived with chickens at home":
One thing to know about chicken meat is that the chicken that you eat in your favorite fast-food restaurant as well as at home is actually from the meat of the female chicken or the hen.
In fact, you have probably never eaten male chickens or roosters ever before in your life, especially if you simply rely on fast-food restaurants and grocery stores when it comes to the chicken meat that you eat.
Why Do We Not Eat Male Chickens? (The truth behind this), Patrick FROMAGET, chickenslife.com
I am pretty doubtful of its reliability, but according to Fromaget, male chicken meat is edible, but male chicks are culled because roosters are more aggressive than hens. I'm skeptical about how applicable the argument about aggression is to broiler chickens, which I understand are often slaughtered before reaching a year old (and so before the males would have grown into adult roosters).
On the other hand, I've found a number of online sources that indicate that both male and female broilers are commonly raised for meat:
-"Are Chickens Female? What Most People Don’t Know", November 13, 2020, by Susan, Hen Raising:
Another common misconception about chickens is that we get meat from the females only.
That’s also not true because both male and female chickens are used to produce meat, and this happens everywhere in the world.
(Another article from this same website: Is Rooster Meat Sold As Chicken? [Can You Eat A Male Chicken?])
- Are meat chickens male or female?, August 25th, 2016, Australian Chicken Meat Federation:
Both male and female chickens are used to produce chicken meat. That’s the case right around the world.
Unlike the case for the egg industry, where only hens are required to lay the eggs that are sold for human consumption, both male and female meat chickens can be and are grown for meat and are equally valued by the chicken meat industry. This is just one of many differences between the two industries…. other differences include that meat chickens are never grown in cages and come from completely different breeds of chickens than egg laying chickens (for more information about the breeds used by the two industries see my earlier blog: no cages for meat chickens).
- "Why Are Meat Chickens Female?", by Kimberly Starr, Backyard Homestead
Meat chickens aren’t generally limited to a single chicken’s sex, unlike egg layers (only female chickens lay eggs). This is for several reasons.
- Meat chickens are most usually slaughtered and processed before full maturity to maximize meat tenderness and minimize any noticeable differences between the cuts of meat.
- It’s hard to be certain of a chicken’s sex before full maturity.
- Do we eat male or female chickens?, Chicken India:
It is practically impossible to know whether meat comes from a male or female chicken as they taste almost the same. Generally, chickens are grown together in the same barns and its impossible to distinguish them in the early stages. The difference between both sexes starts to emerge only after a month, and Chickens are generally collected for human consumption before they reach their sexual maturity.
- "How CRISPR could save 6 billion chickens from the meat grinder", by Jackson Ryan, CNET, March 7, 2019
The chicken on your plate is not the same chicken that laid the eggs in your omelette. Chickens are specifically bred for either purpose. Those used for meat production are known as broilers, while those used for egg production are known as layers. At a genetic level, these two types of chicken are slightly different animals.
Broiler chickens are genetically programmed to turn their feed into muscle, getting as big as possible, as quickly as possible. Laying chickens, on the other hand, are predisposed to laying eggs instead of plumping up their muscles. While male and female chickens can both be used as broilers, layers are a different story.
The latter sources seem more plausible to me, but what I really want is to get an definitive answer from a reliable source that isn't just a blog post or online news article.
Are any such reliable sources available, e.g. journal articles or some kind of official statistics or reports that cover this topic?
note: All bolding in quotations was added by me for emphasis.