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Perdue Farms commits to higher broiler welfare

Major US poultry producer Perdue Farms has announced a significant commitment to the welfare of the poultry it rears.

The four-part plan, developed with farmers, academics and animal welfare groups, looks to accelerate the company's progress in animal care. It said the changes would help strengthen relationships with farmers, build trust and create a 'care culture' for the future.

Chickens expressing normal behaviour

Bruce Stewart-Brown, Perdue senior vice-president of food safety, quality and live production, said the company wanted to create a shed environment in which chickens could express normal behaviour.

He added the company had learned from its new organic poultry producers and their more holistic husbandry techniques. "From lessons learned from organic chicken houses, it's clear that there can be a general health benefit with increased activity and that is a big focus of our plan."

Customers supported the announcement. Karen Meleta, vice-president of consumer and corporate communications at retailer Shop Rite, said: "We are very encouraged by Perdue's efforts on animal care and we hope to move forward with them as they progress and we congratulate them on this commitment."

Changes announced by Perdue Farms

  • A commitment to retrofitting 200 chicken houses with windows by the end of 2016 to compare bird health and activity to enclosed housing.
  • Improved relationships with poultry farmers, including an open dialogue about best practices in animal care, considering the farmers' well-being and connecting animal care to pay and incentives.
  • A study of enrichments such as perches and bales of hay to encourage activity with a goal to double the activity of chickens in the next three years.
  • A commitment to design and implement an approach to starter nutrition that better supports birds as they develop their immune and skeletal systems.
  • A commitment to implement controlled atmosphere stunning at all slaughterhouses.
  • Implementation of video monitoring of catching crews and transport vehicles with weekly spot checks.

Improvement in animal welfare

Welfare organisations also gave the thumbs-up, with the Humane Society of the United States saying the shift towards controlled atmosphere slaughter was a particularly important animal welfare improvement.

Senior director of food policy Josh Balk said Perdue's new animal welfare policy was 'precedent setting', while Leah Garces, Compassion in World Farming executive director, said it was a 'momentous' first step in the right direction.

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