Perdue Farms released this week its 2019 "Perdue Commitment to Animal Care Report" at its fourth annual Animal Care Summit. The summit brought together animal care thought leaders, representatives of animal welfare advocacy groups such as The Humane Society of the United States, Compassion in World Farming and Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare, leading retail and foodservice customers and Perdue farmers to share updates on the company’s advancements in animal care and garner feedback from the participants.
“Our Animal Care Summit is a key part of the increased transparency and trust building with stakeholders to which we committed when we launched the animal care initiative in 2016,” company chairman Jim Perdue said. “We appreciate the opportunity to share our progress and to learn from these partners during the summit so we can continue to evolve the way we raise chickens to impact welfare in measurable ways.”
The 2019 "Perdue Commitment to Animal Care Report" summarizes progress made against 2018 goals and new initiatives being undertaken as part of Perdue’s industry-leading focus on chicken welfare, including:
- Continuing to expand the number of farms with free-range, outdoor access, with a goal of 25% of houses having outdoor access by January 2020, allowing Perdue to meet the growing demand for PERDUE HARVESTLAND organic and free-range chicken;
- Increasing the number of chicken houses with windows, exceeding the 2018 goal and now up to 48% of houses;
- Continuing to make substantial improvement in paw (foot) health over the winter months, indicating a better environment for the chickens;
- Continuing to actively study and learn about alternative breeds both to meet growing customer demand for higher-welfare chickens and to identify the traits that contribute to healthier chickens;
- Gaining a better understanding of the contributions of windows, enrichments and space in encouraging more movement as Perdue works toward its goal of doubling chicken activity, and
- Developing a draft verifiable plan to provide chickens that meet the 2024 criteria outlined in the “Joint Animal Protection Organization Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare Issues” for customers who desire it.
“We continue to study and better understand how to provide what chickens want as well as what they need. This year, we learned a lot about how enrichments encourage activity, began measuring chicken comfort during transport and studied the behavioral traits of alternative breeds, among other initiatives,” said Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live operations for Perdue Foods. “I’m especially proud of our work on leg health. I’m not aware of any other company that is recording gait scores on a weekly basis and tracking leg health for every flock.”
For 2019, Perdue is launching new initiatives to further enhance chicken health and comfort at all life stages. Parent breeder issues, including weight management approaches for pullets, early chick care and challenges special to chickens raised to heavier weights will be focuses for the coming year.
In 2016, Perdue introduced the Commitments to Animal Care program to challenge the status quo on how the majority of chickens are raised in the U.S. The announcement was precedent setting not only because a major poultry company was making significant changes to its welfare practices but because Perdue was collaborating with animal welfare advocacy groups.