SALISBURY, Md. – As part of its “Commitments to Animal Care” campaign launched in 2016, Perdue Farms recently announced progress the company has made to enhance animal welfare practices throughout its chicken production process. During the company’s annual Animal Care Summit officials released updates about its programs focused on housing practices and developing effective enrichments; monitoring the condition of animals’ feet; studying the impact of genetics; and developing a plan to comply with the 2024 goals established by the “Joint Animal Protection Organization Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare Issues.”
Perdue detailed its animal welfare improvements for attendees of its summit, which was comprised of chicken producers, retail and foodservice customers and animal care advocacy organizations.
The company plans to build on findings it uncovered this past year, according to Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live operations with Perdue. “We continue to study and better understand how to provide what chickens want as well as what they need. This year we learned a lot about how enrichments encourage activity, began measuring chicken comfort during transport and studied the behavioral traits of alternative breeds, among other initiatives,” he said.
Specifically, Perdue’s progress includes:
- Expanding the number of farms with free-range, outdoor access with a goal of 25 percent of houses having outdoor access by January 2020;
- Substantially improving the health of chickens’ feet (paws) health over the winter months;
- Actively studying and learning about alternative breeds to meet customer demand for higher welfare chickens;
- Understanding how implementing housing enhancements, including windows, enrichments and space contribute to Perdue’s goal of doubling chicken activity;
- Increasing the number of chicken houses with windows beyond the current level of 48 percent of houses;
- Soliciting producers to suggest chicken welfare enhancements as part of a contest in 2019; and
- Developing a draft verifiable plan to provide chickens that meet the 2024 criteria outlined in the “Joint Animal Protection Organization Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare Issues” for its customers.
“I’m especially proud of our work on leg health. I’m not aware of any other company that is recording gait scores on a weekly basis and tracking leg health for every flock,” said Brown.
This year, Perdue’s initiatives focus on continuing to improve the health and welfare of its chickens, which includes weight management programs for pullets, early chick care, and addressing chickens raised to heavier weights.
“Our Animal Care Summit is a key part of the increased transparency and trust building with stakeholders to which we committed when we launched the animal care initiative in 2016,” said Jim Perdue, chairman. “We appreciate the opportunity to share our progress and to learn from these partners during the Summit so we can continue to evolve the way we raise chickens to impact welfare in measurable ways.”