Perdue Farms has implemented a controlled atmospheric stunning (CAS) system at its Milford, Delaware, processing facility as part of a move toward more humane methods of slaughter. The Milton facility is the country’s largest organic poultry plant, processing 1.2 million chickens per week.
CAS is seen by many animal welfare groups as a more humane alternative to rendering chickens unconscious before slaughter. Unlike the common electric shock method, whereby birds are shackled upside down while still conscious before being passed through an electrified water bath, CAS modifies the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air chickens breathe, ensuring that birds are rendered unconscious before being shackled. CAS is not only easier on birds, but also on plant workers, who do not need to handle conscious birds with this method.
“Since implementing the CAS system, we’re seeing measurable poultry welfare improvements throughout the process, as well as improvements in product quality,” says Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, Senior Vice President of Food Safety, Quality and Live Production. “The difference is night and day.”
This transition is the first part of Perdue's commitment to convert 100 percent of its plants to CAS systems. Perdue Farms is the first and only major poultry company in the country to make such a commitment, which it announced in 2016 as part of its “Commitments to Animal Care” program.
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A second phase of implementation will begin this fall and will include redesigned transport crates, added weather protection on trucks, and a temperature-controlled de-stressing area for birds. Perdue Farms will also continue to gradually convert its remaining plants to CAS systems, with the next installation planned for 2019.
These changes have contributed in part to Perdue Farms achieving the second highest of six levels of the global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, an achievement that was announced Thursday in the BBFAW 2017 report. Perdue Farms is one of only three U.S. poultry and meat companies to achieve this level and is now ranked in the top 15 percent of more than 100 food companies around the world.
“We’ve been working very hard the last few years to improve the conditions under which our animals are raised,” said Jim Perdue, Chairman of Perdue Farms, in a press release. “The Business Benchmark aligns with our vision to be the most-trusted name in premium protein, and provides independent, third-party recognition of our progress. We share a common goal in improving farm animal welfare.”
Perdue Farms has made several other recent steps towards improved animal welfare, including removing all antibiotics from its product supply in 2016 and remodeling some chicken houses to increase space and natural light for birds.
These advancements come after years of failing to meet animal welfare standards, including an incident in 2014 where Perdue was forced to remove the label "humanely raised" from its Harvestland brand chicken after two class action lawsuits proved the company failed to meet humane standards.
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