IPUs (intensive poultry units) are giant scale industrial size steel sheds, typically around 100 metres long by 20 metres wide, with accompanying hard standing, silos and supporting infrastructure, and because of this are usually hard to blend into the countryside.
The environment agency categorises intensive livestock units as industrial installations and this includes IPUs. Due to the giant scale of IPUs the waste they produce is significant and it has a serious impact on the environment.
How Fast Can They Grow?
The intensity of the production process increases every year as the industry produces birds that reach “maturity” even more quickly. The broiler industry is predicting that by 2020, chickens will reach “table-weight” just 19 days from hatching. This can only increase the amounts of manure produced.
These chickens spend much of their time lying down because their legs are not strong enough to support their heavy body weights and many of them suffer from painful leg disorders. The rapid growth also puts a strain on their hearts and lungs. Fast‐growing broilers spend less time performing natural behaviours such as walking and pecking. Chickens bred to grow quickly often develop leg deformities because their bones don’t grow quickly enough to support the weight of their bodies.
The health of chickens in factory farms has traditionally been supported by the preventative use of antibiotics. Although efforts have been made in recent years to reduce levels of use in poultry farming, antibiotics are still given routinely to chickens in highly intensive systems.
There is clear evidence that the over use of antibiotics in factory farms contributes to resistance to antibiotics in human health, which means that if you eat a lot of chickens that have been treated with antibiotics, when you get sick and take antibiotic medication, it will treat you and make you better.
Avian (bird) flu outbreaks are a sadly common story in the UK. There is a clear likelihood that that the industrial‐scale poultry industry has upset the longstanding balance between bird flu viruses and birds (wild or domestic). The overcrowding, poor health and high stress environments inside a chicken factory are the perfect conditions for viruses to mutate.