“I’ll have that little one on the left there,” I ask the delicatessen at Coles. She lifts up the chicken breast and, as it turns out, it’s not so small. It’s a pretty thick slab of chook actually, much bigger than the breasts on the chickens I used to feed at home. I don’t think about it, though, because the more expensive organic, free–range chicken breasts in the vacuum packaging are the same size. Besides, Australia isn’t like America, we have high animal care standards, I’ve seen the ads for Steggles, they treat their chickens well.

Steggles provide succulent white meats to major supermarkets, restaurants, and fast food joints, and next week they will launch a new iteration of their campaign aimed at ‘dispelling the myths around the use of cages’ in their factory farming.

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“It’s imperative that we continue to communicate the truth around chicken farming in Australia,” says Steggles brand manager Celeste Moroney.

“For the past 12 months we have focused on spreading the message that no hormones or steroids are added to Australian meat chickens, and it’s time to set the record straight when it comes to the use of cages. Steggles chickens are free to roam in custom-built, well-ventilated barns with constant access to food and water. A Steggles nutritionist is also on hand to monitor and audit the welfare of our chickens.”

Glenys Oogjes, spokesperson for Animals Australia Unleashed, thinks that Steggles chose their words very carefully and are deceiving the public, as cage farming has never been the issue.

"They’ve been running these campaigns for some time,” Oogjes tells Marketing mag. “The suggestion that they are free to roam in large sheds is a ruse to assure the community that the welfare is good. What people don’t know is they have them packed in high density, 20 birds per square meter, up to 30 or 40 thousand birds in one shed.”

Oogjes says the confinement means the birds have difficulty standing and moving around to get to food and water, which leads to high rates of lameness and death. And it doesn’t stop there, while the slab of chicken you pick up at Coles may not have been injected with hormones in their lifetime, Oogjes says the damage had already been done over generations.

“There are extreme problems with chicken farming,” she explains. “The breeds of birds used for meat production have been bred over many years to grow very quickly to have very large breasts. They grow 2 to 3 times faster than 30 odd years ago, they are seen as a very efficient animal”

In America, KFC has been tarred by high profile PETA–led campaigns against cruelty to chickens, but have not dramatically changed their ways. Oogjes says the situation is similar in Australia.

“The raising of our concerns have merely led to PR campaigns,” she says. “Telling the community chickens are free to roam are carefully chosen words to suggest they are free range, when they live in crowded, horrible conditions. “

Oogjes also says the current state of "free range" meats aren't much better, either. She tells Marketing mag the brilliantly marketed Lilydale Free Range poultry brand hasn't allowed Animals Unleashed to visit the farm, and that the chickens farmed are still super-growers with the same problems. It's not much use to have a paddock to potter about in if you can't walk, she says.  

You’d think few people would want to eat chicken if they believed everything Oogjes says, but maybe Steggles’ campaign will be just enough to make Chicken lovers think, “well, at least they’re not in cages”, and ask that delicatessen to give them the biggest breast fillet they can find.

What do you think? Will the public ever care enough to force poultry production companies to stop factory farming? Do you know more, are the conditions not as bad as the activists say? Drop a comment below.