The 21-day-old chicken — white-feathered, dark-eyed, with a brush-cut of pale yellow bristles above its beak — climbed carefully up a ramp, teetered briefly at the top, then launched itself into space. It landed on another bird, flapped hard, and gave its accidental landing pad an apologetic peck. Then it wandered off into a crowd of more than 49,000 chickens just like it that were hopping into boxes, poking their beaks into straw bales, and settling in pools of sunlight for a snooze.
Animal-welfare measures created last year by giant poultry company Perdue Farms Inc., in a break with traditional poultry raising practices, are starting to show results, Perdue executives said last week. In an interview in Atlanta at the International Production and Processing Expo, the largest annual meeting of the poultry business, Perdue chairman Jim Perdue and Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live operations, told FERN’s Ag Insider the measures, which focus on “what a chicken wants,” are producing more active, higher quality birds.
The Humane Society of the U.S. praised Perdue, the country’s fourth-largest poultry producer, for a series of animal-welfare reforms that it called “meaningful and precedent-setting.” The reforms include installing windows in poultry houses to allow more natural light; giving each bird more space; putting the birds to sleep before slaughter; and testing slower-growing breeds.
Perdue will no longer require farmers to request permission before visually or audibly documenting their chicken operations, says Tom Philpott in Mother Jones.
Poultry workers say they are routinely denied bathroom breaks, according to a report by Oxfam America, based on interviews with workers at some of the nation's biggest poultry companies, including Tyson Foods, Perdue and Pilgrim's over the last three years.