Animal rights groups, retailers and farmers have applauded poultry supplier Perdue Foods for its latest commitment to bettering the environment in which poultry is raised and harvested.
Salisbury, Md.-based Perdue created a four-part plan to accelerate its progress in animal care, strengthen relationships with farmers, build trust with stakeholder groups and create an animal care culture for continued improvement. It developed the plan, “2016 and Beyond: Next Generation of Perdue Commitments to Animal Care,” with input from stakeholders such as farmers, academics and leaders of animal advocate organizations. Perdue is said to be the first major company to commit to implementing such practices in raising and harvesting animals system-wide, encompassing not only animals, but also the people who care for and handle them, as well as stakeholders with an interest in this area.
Compassion in World Farming lauded Perdue for its commitment to ethical chicken rearing.
“We commend Perdue for being the first major poultry company to publish such a detailed policy on animal welfare,” said Leah Garces, executive director of the Decatur, Ga.-based organization. “This announcement shows their willingness to disclose where they are at and where they are going in terms of improving the lives of chickens. Time will tell what this means for the birds, but it is a momentous first step in the right direction.”
The Humane Society of the United States also praised Perdue’s decision, calling it “precedent-setting.”
“While we look forward to the company adopting timelines for achieving its goals, it’s important progress from a major poultry producer,” said Josh Balk, senior director of food policy for the Washington, D.C.-based society. “The shift toward controlled atmosphere slaughter is a particularly important animal welfare improvement.
Additional commendation came from Perdue’s customers, with several retailers supporting the company's new policy. ShopRite, in particular, said it finds Perdue's efforts on animal care encouraging.
“We hope to move forward with them as they progress, and we congratulate them on this commitment,” said Karen Meleta, VP of consumer and corporate communications at Keasbey, N.J.-based cooperative Wakefern Food Corp., whose members operate ShopRite stores.
Meanwhile, club chain operator BJ’s Wholesale Club noted that it strives to partner with suppliers that join it in embracing the Five Freedoms, an internationally recognized standard for animal husbandry.
“As a result, we applaud our supplier, Perdue, for its responsibility to ensure animals are treated humanely,” said Scott Williams, AVP of owned brands and quality at Westborough, Mass.-based BJ's.
Perdue’s farmer partners also showed their support. Ken Bloodworth of Georgia said he believes the “time is right” to advance poultry welfare, and that customers will appreciate the efforts to care for chickens in a manner that processes a more healthful product.
“Consumers today are more aware [than ever] of where and how their food is raised,” he noted.
Steve Carpenter of North Carolina added that he has seen firsthand that happy and comfortable animals live better, perform better and, therefore, make the farmer feel better.
“Even if it takes a little longer and a little more work,” he said, “you will always sleep better at night knowing you have done the right thing caring for your animals.”
And Burney Baker of North Carolina observed that the industry’s evolution from a least-cost production paradigm to one that values the chicken’s mindset and mental wellbeing is ongoing, and will be a determining factor in which companies thrive in the new marketplace and which ones fail.
“Change is a fact of life,” he said, “and I am glad Perdue is leading this revolution.”