The poultry company says it's improving housing for its chickens.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 13, 2019
Courtesy of Perdue

If you’re looking for evidence of just how important animal welfare has become to American consumers, consider this: After 97 years in business, Perdue Farms, currently the country’s fourth largest poultry producer, just issued its first ever annual “Commitment to Animal Care” report this week. Granted, the poultry industry (like most industries) has changed drastically in the past century. And this isn’t to imply that Perdue had never considered animal welfare before. Still, the efforts to publically promote this initiative since it was launched last year have to be seen as a major change in the way the company sells chicken.

In the report, Perdue outlines the progress it’s made on its promise to improve conditions for its chickens, to work better with its farmers, to increase transparency and to continue to improve. But the work the brand has done to increase the welfare of its birds is the biggest highlight. The company says, among other things, its “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; [and] moving to controlled-atmosphere stunning,” a method intended to make slaughter less painful. These improved standards adhere to the “Joint Animal Protection Agency Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare Issues” standards that were created by a coalition of nine advocacy groups.

“We know that trust is earned by responding to consumers and other stakeholders, and that includes a willingness to make significant changes,” chairman Jim Perdue said. “It’s not easy, and it requires commitment, resources and time. But people expect more from Perdue, and we have to keep improving.”

Not only are these changes good for the birds, they’re also good for business. As FoodNavigator-USA points out, recent Nielsen data shows that sales of meat with production claims, such as improved animal wellbeing, attached to it has seen increased sales while meats without these claims have seen sales declines. “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,” Leah Garces, executive director of Compassion in World Farming, was quoted as saying in Perdue’s announcement of the new report.

Notably, however, Perdue only accounts for only 7 percent of America’s chicken production. Yes, plenty of other companies have made similar commitments, but though Perdue is a big name, the movement toward better animal welfare still has a long way to go.