Perdue is making some big changes to improve the quality of life for the hundreds of millions of chickens it processes each year, the New York Times reported on Monday.
To make factory-farmed chickens' lives a little less miserable, Perdue is planning to allow its birds to bask in the sunlight from their pens, and will also put the animals to sleep before slaughtering them. While smaller companies like Bell & Evans have been implementing similar, more humane measures for years, Perdue is the fourth largest poultry producer in the US, processing some 676 million chickens and earning $6 billion in 2015 alone.
Sunlight—which Perdue farmers were previously banned from providing for the livestock—has been proven to bring joy to chickens. Karen Speake, whose family has raised chickens for the company for almost four decades, recently added sunlight to her pens and saw positive results. “They’re much happier birds, I can tell you, more active, more playful,” she told the Times.
Poultry companies, including Perdue, Tyson and Pilgrim's, are notorious for mistreating their chickens, enclosing the birds in crowded pens and depriving them of space until those that survive are ready for slaughter. In May, a report from OxFam America also detailed the poor conditions humans are forced to work under at chicken processing plants, wearing adult diapers on the job to limit breaks during the work day.
Perdue's new standards for chicken farming, announced on Monday, will seek to "overhaul" the company's existing animal welfare practices. Over the next few years, Perdue will pay to have windows installed in farmers' barns, and efforts to stop breeding unnaturally large-breasted chickens— which often suffer injuries and deformities during their lifetimes—have also been mentioned.
Moving forward, the company is also looking into chicken-friendly playground equipment, including "inclined slats for perching, haystacks for pecking and hiding places where chickens lower down in the pecking order can get away from bullies," the Times reports.
“We are going to go beyond what a chicken needs and give chickens what they want,” Jim Perdue, whose grandfather founded Perdue Foods in 1920, told the paper.
Perdue—which was the first major company to rule out use of antibiotics in poultry in 2015—believes these new standards will begin to further change the poultry industry at large. The company also plans to release annual reports on its animal welfare practices to public, largely due to pressure from its consumers.
“We want to be held accountable,” Jim Perdue said. “If we mess up, we have to be prepared to say we messed up.”
[via New York Times]