broiler chickens Credit: buhanovskiy/iStock/Thinkstock.

Perdue Farms announces animal care changes

Company moving to controlled-atmosphere stunning.

Perdue Farms has announced animal care improvements that it says will elevate the welfare of its chickens and that promise to meet growing customer and consumer demand for poultry raised to higher welfare standards. The details are outlined in the release of the company’s first annual progress report since its comprehensive 2016 commitment to accelerate advancements in animal care.

The announcement came as part of Perdue’s Animal Care Summit, a gathering of global animal care experts, advocates, researchers and farmers.

“We know that trust is earned by responding to consumers and other stakeholders, and that includes a willingness to make significant changes,” said Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms. “It’s not easy, and it requires commitment, resources and time, but people expect more from Perdue, and we have to keep improving.”

Perdue Farms also became the first major poultry company to promise its current and future customers a sustainable supply of chicken that meets all of the animal welfare criteria outlined in the “Joint Animal Protection Agency Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare Issues.” The standards, agreed upon by a coalition of nine advocacy groups as meaningful progress to address the main welfare concerns with broiler production, match many of the changes Perdue Farms was already exploring as part of its comprehensive Commitments to Animal Care program.

“Major food companies are increasingly committing to treating chickens in their supply chains better. Perdue, with this announcement, becomes the largest poultry producer to ensure that this demand will be met,” said Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection at The Humane Society of the United States. “We applaud Perdue for focusing its improvements on the core areas of concern within the poultry industry, and this holistic approach demonstrates all that’s possible in creating better lives for billions of chickens.”

Perdue Farms' recent announcement includes:

  • Giving chickens more space, more light during the day and longer lights-off periods for rest;
  • Increasing the number of chicken houses with windows;
  • Continuing to study the role of enrichments in encouraging active behavior;
  • Raising and studying slower-growing chickens;
  • Moving to controlled-atmosphere stunning (CAS), and
  • Strengthening relationships with farmers.

As the fourth-largest poultry company in the U.S. – representing 7% of the nation’s chicken production – Perdue Farms said its commitment and progress indicate a sizeable shift away from industry standards and toward addressing customer and consumer concerns about animal welfare, including issues related to fast growth.

“Purdue’s animal welfare improvements and its promise to meet the demands of companies with progressive animal welfare policies puts other poultry producers on notice,” said Brent Cox, vice president of corporate outreach at Mercy For Animals. “It’s time for Tyson Foods, Foster Farms and others to catch up with business trends, consumer expectations and the latest in animal welfare science by committing to (Global Animal Partnership) standards and eliminating the worst forms of animal abuse in their supply chains.”

Going forward, Perdue Farms will continue to progress using the Five Freedoms -- a globally accepted standard for animal husbandry that goes beyond animals’ “needs” to include their “wants” -- and to involve the farmers who raise the company's chickens. Specific advancements will include studying a fully enclosed, climate-controlled, de-stress staging area for birds that arrive at the plant, continued work with slower-growing chicken breeds and further implementation of CAS.

“I’ve been very impressed with Perdue as to the direction they’re going with the care of the birds. That’s what the consumer wants. Perdue is certainly meeting that concern, and we’re here to grow chickens to meet that concern the best we way we can,” said Jeffrey Reed, a Perdue farm family partner.

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