Chickens on a farm in Kenya

Perdue announces significant new animal welfare commitment for chickens



Perdue Farms, America’s fourth-largest poultry producer, earlier this week announced a major new commitment to improving the welfare of meat chickens (also known as broiler chickens). We welcome this commitment.

Change for Chickens - Cage Free Eggs - World Animal Protection

At the Food Animal Initiative (FAI) farm in Wytham, UK, chickens have access to the outdoors and extra perching space so the young birds can exercise, dust bathe, preen and scratch.

Perdue published its first detailed animal welfare policy, titled 2016 and Beyond: Next Generation of Perdue Commitments to Animal Care, which lays out both the company’s current practices and several planned improvements for its chicken farms.

Perdue is the first major poultry company to make an animal welfare commitment of this scope and magnitude and to commit to reporting their progress. 

“We welcome the commitment to improved animal welfare announced this week by Perdue,” said Priscilla Ma, U.S. Executive Director of World Animal Protection.  

“The needless suffering of chickens is one of the most severe animal welfare problems, and we absolutely agree with Perdue’s statement that humane farming should not just be about what animals need, but about what animals want. We hope that other major national poultry producers will follow Perdue’s example with robust commitments to both concrete animal welfare policy improvements and to public transparency on progress made.”

Perdue will base its improvements on the Five Freedoms, a set of animal welfare principles including freedom from hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain, injury, and disease; fear and distress; and freedom to express normal behavior. 

It is widely recognized within animal welfare science that good animal welfare goes beyond basic biological functioning to include animals’ emotional states and the ability to engage in natural behavior. Perdue is also one of the first producers to recognize the importance of positive experiences like “play” as an important issue for better welfare.  

Specific plans regarding chicken welfare announced by Perdue include:

  • Installing windows that allow natural lighting and enrichment (which could include hay bales and perches) into poultry houses. These changes can help to increase activity levels, improve leg and cardiovascular health, and allow chickens to better express their natural behavior.
  • Testing the viability of slower-growing breeds. Broiler chickens are reared to grow so quickly that they suffer leg and cardiovascular problems.  Slower-growing breeds tend to be healthier and suffer fewer instances of heart attacks and lameness.  
  • Studying the impact of space allowance on chickens’ activity rates and “play” and implementing improvements based on findings.
  • A commitment to transition Perdue’s slaughter plants from systems that employ electrical water bath stunning of poultry to Controlled Atmosphere Stunning. CAS is far more humane since it reduces stress and can be more effective at rendering animals insensible before slaughter.
  • Annual public updates on Perdue’s progress towards continual improvements for farm animals. Transparency should be a crucial component of any farm animal welfare commitment. 
  • Improving its relationships with farmers by committing to work towards a culture of open dialogue and connecting animal care to pay and incentives. 

Chicken Choice is a higher welfare farm in Kenya. There are no cages,  there are open sides for natural light and ventilation, and chickens have constant access to water.

Perdue farms approximately 700 million chickens each year, meaning its new policies can make a significant difference for a large number of birds. 95% of all farm animals in the United States are chickens raised for meat. 

The world consumes 61 billion chickens every year. Most – a massive 43 billion – are housed in systems that cause rampant animal welfare problems including severe lameness, weak bones, and overworked hearts and lungs. 

Consumers worldwide have already shown their power by calling on governments and businesses to improve conditions for egg-laying hens. 

Related: Our partner, Nestlé, commits to 100% cage-free eggs in the U.S.

We know the same can be done for meat chickens, too. Here’s what you can do to help:

  1. Use the social media buttons below to share this story! Tell your friends and family about the terrible suffering chickens endure.
  2. Encourage everyone to read labels on chicken and chicken products carefully and not be fooled by meaningless labels like ‘farm fresh.’
  3. Ask retailers to stock chickens from producers that are moving towards the use of slower-growing birds and that rear chickens in environments which allow them to engage in their natural behaviors and move around more freely.

Become an animal protector today and support our work to make an immediate and lasting impact on the lives of animals around the world.

Top image: Chicken Choice farm in Kenya.

We hope that other major national poultry producers will follow Perdue’s example with robust commitments to both concrete animal welfare policy improvements and to public transparency on progress made.