Perdue Farms announced this week that it is following up its 2018 move to controlled-atmosphere stunning (CAS) at its Milford, Del., plant with the country's first system to further improve live bird handling, beginning at the farm. The milestone, at the country's largest organic poultry plant, makes Perdue the only major poultry company to use CAS with a fully integrated transportation system of higher-welfare modular containers and specially designed trailers, the company said. There are currently only eight other installations of these container systems in the world.
The second phase introduces covered trailers that feature a solid roof and breathable side curtains that better control environmental factors like temperature, humidity, oxygen levels and ventilation. The specially designed trailer also carries the higher-welfare transportation containers that provide easier all-around access and increased headroom for chickens during transport. Further, Perdue said that utilizing these advanced containers also leads to drastically less handling of chickens from the farm to the plant because they are able to remain in their container as they enter the CAS system.
Representing a more than $20 million investment in higher animal welfare, the completed CAS system is a milestone in Perdue's commitment to convert 100% of its harvest plants to CAS instead of electrical stunning, which eliminates the process of shackling conscious birds upside-down prior to being insensible to pain.
"When we took phase one of our CAS system live, we wanted to learn as much as we could and improve that process while we planned for this second and final phase. As a result, we've been able to fine tune this fully integrated system that greatly reduces the stress on the birds from the farm to the harvest plant," said Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, Perdue senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production. "We're proud to complete this project that raises the bar for the industry and continue on our animal welfare journey."
Perdue's investments in higher-animal welfare systems are also being recognized by global animal advocacy organizations seeking changes within the broader industry. For the second consecutive year, Perdue placed among the highest ranked of more than 150 global food companies in the global Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare.
"It is clear from our assessment of Perdue Farms that the company is making farm animal welfare an integral part of its business strategy," said Nicky Amos, executive director of Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare. Perdue was one of only two U.S. companies to achieve tier 2 or higher.
"We applaud Perdue's efforts," said Mercy for Animals senior animal welfare specialist Lauri Torgerson-White, who has seen the new system. "By eliminating the need to shackle conscious chickens upside-down, the potential animal suffering in these systems is greatly reduced."
Perdue noted that, in addition to the major improvements to poultry welfare, other beneficial outcomes are being realized with the second phase of the CAS system. The new trailers have increased fuel efficiency by approximately 32% and ultimately use less fuel per load. The higher-welfare container system also makes use of an automatic wash machine that strengthens biosecurity by returning the cleanest possible containers back to the farm.