After extensive negotiations with three major animal welfare organizations, Perdue Foods, one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S., has announced the most comprehensive animal welfare policy in the history of factory-raised chickens.
Mercy For Animals, Compassion in World Farming, and The Humane Society of the United States all worked with Perdue on developing the policies after Mercy for Animals captured illegal animal abuse on undercover video at two of Perdue’s contracted farms. A Change.org petition gathered more than 182,000 signatures urging the poultry supplier to update its animal welfare standards.
“Over the next several years, all of Perdue’s chickens — 676 million last year — will bask in sunlight,” reports the New York Times. While it might not sound like a major achievement, it’s a move that varies wildly from the norm—most chickens rarely see the light of day, except perhaps on their way to slaughter. But that’s all changing at Perdue’s 2,200 U.S. farms in the next several years.
“The commitment will hold Perdue to standards similar to those in Europe,” notes the Times, “which the American poultry industry has long dismissed as antiquated, inefficient and costly.”
The move includes installation of windows inside chicken farms, and more space per bird in the farms. And in a major step toward decreasing animal suffering, the birds will be “put to sleep” using a method called Controlled Atmosphere Stunning with a gas before slaughter.
Perdue says it will also begin to look at its animal breeding procedures, which have led to birds growing so big so quickly in recent generations that the birds cannot support their own weight and suffer with severe leg injuries as a result of their abnormal breast size.
From the Organic Authority Files
“As we continue to learn about innovative and better ways to raise animals through our No Antibiotics Ever journey and our experience in raising organic chickens, we are adopting a four-part plan which will result in changing how we raise chickens,” Chairman Jim Perdue said in a statement. “Transparency is very important to Perdue consumers, who are interested knowing how we raise, care for and harvest our chickens. Our vision is to be the most trusted name in food and agricultural products and animal care is a big part of that journey.”
The company outlines on its website a list of its current farm conditions and the next steps its taking on all of its farms. Perdue points to the “Five Freedoms” as its motivation. Defined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the Five Freedoms are ethical imperatives that include Freedom from Hunger or Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.
“We want to be held accountable,” Perdue told the Times. “If we mess up, we have to be prepared to say we messed up.”
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Chicken image via Shutterstock