Perdue Farms released a report on the company’s animal care improvements intended to improve the welfare of its chickens and meet growing demand for poultry raised according to certain welfare standards. These chicken welfare improvements details are outlined in the company’s first progress report following Perdue Farms’ 2016 commitment to accelerate its advancements in animal care. The announcement of the report came during 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.”

Standards used by Perdue in animal welfare improvements

Perdue pledged to develop and maintain a sustainable supply of chicken that meets all 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 to address the main welfare concerns with broiler production, match many of the changes Perdue was already exploring as part of its comprehensive Commitments to Animal Care program, according to the company.

“Major food companies are increasingly committing to treating chickens in their supply chains better,” said Josh Balk, vice president of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States. “Perdue, with this announcement, becomes the largest poultry producer to ensure that this demand will be met.”

Perdue’s recent animal welfare improvements include:

  • 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)
  • Strengthening relationships with farmers

“Not only is it the right thing to do for the birds but it’s the right thing to do for the business given the certain direction of the market,” said Leah Garces, executive director of Compassion in World Farming.

Future animal welfare improvements by Perdue

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