Perdue Farms announced on April 22 the winner of its first ever Chicken Welfare Enrichment Design Contest. Perdue challenged family farmers in its network to develop new inventions that improve the lives of the animals in their care. The company received over 30 submissions for creative new enrichment designs that allow chickens to roost, perch, play and exercise in different ways.

“I want to commend Perdue for having this contest,” said Temple Grandin, contest judge, renowned animal welfare expert, subject of an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning biopic and Time 100 Hero for her work in animal welfare and autism awareness. “Enrichments like these greatly improve the quality of life for the chickens and are equally as great for the farmers raising the chickens – I enjoyed seeing the farmers get excited about creating opportunities for the chickens to play and exercise.”

The Carpenter Bench

The Carpenter Bench, designed and built by the Carpenter family from Wadesboro, North Carolina, bested the competition by creating a design that was both beneficial for the chickens and easy to build, store and integrate into chicken houses for the farmers. While the chickens enjoying the enrichments was a given priority for judging, the ease of use for farmers was also a primary factor. Long term, Perdue is looking to make these enrichments available for farmers to use across their family farm network.

“This has been a phenomenal family experience,” said Nicole Carpenter, after taking home the $5,000 prize and winning title. “We’re real proud of the Carpenter bench enrichment. We tried to build something that encouraged the natural, social skills and things that a chicken likes to do in its natural environment while adding square feet to the chicken house.”

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This contest was designed as one of many efforts by Perdue to ensure the farmers in their network are engaged in the company’s efforts to be a leader in animal welfare. As part of this commitment, the company has moved beyond the basics of food, water, shelter and protection from disease to consider not only what chickens need, but what they want. Farmers throughout the network developed enrichments that ranged from a “chicken tree” roosting structure to a “double roosting ramp.”

 “The innovative designs that the Carpenter family and our network of family farmers have developed will encourage chickens to engage in their natural behaviors and interact with each other and their surroundings,” said Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production, at Perdue. “At Perdue, our family farmers are the experts at raising healthy and happy chickens, and that’s why we turned to them to help us innovate new solutions to improve animal welfare.  We look forward to implementing the winning inventions and seeing the positive impact of these innovations on creating a better environment for our chickens.”

Commitments to Animal Care program

In 2016, Perdue introduced the groundbreaking “Commitments to Animal Care” program, challenging the status quo on how the majority of chickens are raised in the US. 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. Progress since this announcement has led Perdue to be one of only two U.S. companies to achieve Tier 2 or higher in the global Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare.   

The Perdue Commitments to Animal Care is a four-part program to accelerate the company’s progress in animal care by giving Perdue chickens what they need and want, strengthening farmer relationships, building trust with multiple stakeholder groups and creating an animal care culture for continuous improvement. In the last year, Perdue has taken on initiatives including committing to adding windows to 100 percent of chicken houses, identifying alternative breeds that meet the demand for customers who want higher welfare chickens, increasing transparency and recommitting to better relationships with the farmers who raise its chickens.