Have you ever seen or heard about these little plastic sticks or rods called “nose bones?” They look a bit like thick plastic toothpicks. In the chicken industry, workers are paid to take these “bones” and stab them through the sensitive nostrils of young male breeder birds.
The practice is commonly referred to as “boning,” and it’s as barbaric as it looks and sounds.
Chances are that unless you’re a chicken-breeding industry insider, you’ve probably never heard of this. This practice, while considered common within the industry, has been kept so deeply hidden in the shadows, it’s not even mentioned in the National Chicken Council’s Broiler Breeder Welfare Guidelines. As the NCC convenes in Utah this week for its summer board meeting, we’re urging it to change this: The use of “nose bones” should be officially addressed in Guidelines — and specifically prohibited throughout the entire industry.
Little was known about this practice until Compassion Over Killing shined a bright light on it, thanks to our brave investigator who got a job with Tyson Foods in 2016. He was part of a company crew that went to several chicken breeding factory farms throughout Virginia. While the facilities themselves are independently owned by contractors, the birds are all owned by Tyson.
These birds, known in the industry as “broiler breeders,” are the parent flocks of the chickens who are raised and killed for meat. While birds raised for meat (aka “broilers”) are typically slaughtered when they’re still babies, breeder birds must live long enough to reach maturity to breed. They’ll spend just over one year living inside filthy, massive warehouses, breeding and laying eggs, before they too end up in a slaughterhouse.
What does any of this have to do with the practice of “boning”? Everything.
In an effort to to maximize the amount of meat per bird while also minimizing the time needed to raise birds until they reach “slaughter weight,” the chicken industry has genetically manipulated these animals to grow unnaturally fast and abnormally obese. Painfully trapped in their “frankenbird” bodies, these birds have developed extreme appetites because of such extreme growth. As a result, these animals often collapse under their own weight, leaving them unable to walk to access food or water. Others suffer from severe heart, lung, and leg deformities. Victims of their own genetics, countless birds will die before even being sent to slaughter.
However, unlike an average “meat” chicken, who will be slaughtered at less than two months old—before these ailments fully manifest—breeder birds are forced to defy their manipulated genetics and live into adulthood.
How? The industry severely restricts the birds’ food intake. In other words, these birds are forced to live in perpetual starvation so that they don’t become overweight, even though becoming obese is exactly what the birds have been selectively bred to do. And after months of misery, if they manage to live long enough, these are the manipulated genetics they will pass on: extreme hunger and unnaturally fast growth.
Here’s where “nose bones” enter the picture. These birds have voracious appetites yet are denied access to enough food to satiate them, so male birds often aggressively push all the hens away in order to eat all the available food. So the industry created a cruel way to address an already cruel situation: Nose “bones.”
While this has been common in the industry, not all companies use nose bones, suggesting viable alternatives are available to adequately address this issue of extreme hunger.
After Compassion Over Killing documented Tyson employees grabbing male breeder birds by their heads and stabbing dull plastic “bones” through the nostrils, the company immediately announced that it was ending this practice.
Shortly after media coverage of this undercover footage went viral, COK reached out to other major chicken producers about this important issue. As a result, Perdue and Wayne Farms quickly followed Tyson’s lead by stating that they, too, are putting an end to the use of nose bones. We have since reached out to the rest of the top 20 poultry producers in the US. In all, 17 of them have confirmed to us that they have either eliminated or never engaged in this barbaric practice. Only OK Foods, Koch Foods, and Harrison Poultry still remain silent on the issue.
Given that the overwhelming majority of the poultry industry no longer uses nose bones, in large part as a result of our investigation, and given that the act of using “nose bones” was the basis of an animal cruelty conviction in the state of Virginia resulting from our video, it seems fitting for the National Chicken Council to finally update and amend its Guidelines to prohibit this barbaric, outdated practice.