New Video Campaign Targets Abuse on 'Cage-Free' Perdue Chicken Products

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The nonprofit animal welfare group, Compassion in Word Farming (CIWF), has launched a new campaign called “Better Chicken” with the release of a video that the group says “exposes the disconnect between how chickens are raised in the United States and the marketing used to sell this meat to consumers.” In particular, the group targets Perdue chicken. Perdue is the third largest chicken producer in the U.S., and according the New York Times, claims that it treats its animals humanely.

“Doing the right thing is things like treating your chickens humanely,” Jim Perdue, the company’s chairman, said in a promotional video, as noted by Nicholas Kristof in the Times. Kristof says that Perdue’s labels “carry a seal of approval from the Department of Agriculture asserting that the bird was ‘raised cage free,’ and sometimes ‘humanely raised,’” a claim the company must now remove after settling a lawsuit with the Humane Society and Compassion Over Killing.

Kristof shares the new CIWF video, which the group shot at a farm belonging to Craig Watts, 48, “a North Carolina farmer who says he raises about 720,000 chickens each year for Perdue,” reports Kristof. “Most shocking is that the bellies of nearly all the chickens [in the video] have lost their feathers and are raw, angry, red flesh. The entire underside of almost every chicken is a huge, continuous bedsore,” explains Kristof, adding, “As a farmboy who raised small flocks of chickens and geese, I never saw anything like that.”

Watts says he's bound contractually to deprive his chickens from fresh air and sunlight, even though the animals are sold as being raised "cage-free" and until recently as "humanely." While Perdue chicken pushed the blame onto Watts, saying he must be doing something wrong on his end, a big part of the problem - beyond the misleading cage-free conditions - is the breeding, and America’s preference for white breast meat. Chickens are now bred to grow extremely big extremely fast, according to Kristof,if humans grew at the same rate as modern chickens, a human would weigh 660 pounds by the age of eight weeks.”

According to Leah Garcés, USA Director, Compassion in World Farming, “Perdue is merely pretending to address consumers’ demands for chickens raised drug free and humanely, and the USDA is giving the corporation a seal of approval,” she said in a statement.

“Torture a single chicken and you risk arrest,” wrote Kristof. “Abuse hundreds of thousands of chickens for their entire lives? That’s agribusiness.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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