Improving Animal Care

Perdue Animal Care

Perdue outlines a plan to improve upon animal care and vows to stay transparent along its journey.

By Janice Hoppe

Perdue Foods today renewed its commitment to animal care by unveiling a four-part continuous improvement plan that focuses on transparency, strengthening relationships and animal husbandry.  

Chairman Jim Perdue and Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live operations, hosted a press conference at the Redbury Hotel in New York this morning to unveil the new plan titled 2016 and Beyond: Next Generation of Perdue Commitment to Animal Care

Perdue’s policy is being called a first of its kind among poultry producers. “We are really excited at Perdue to be announcing a commitment and communicating what we are doing for the chickens we raise,” Perdue says. “We are making a huge effort to communicate what we are doing, how we will do it and how we will measure ourselves. At the end of the day, the beneficiaries are the chickens who will be in a much better environment.” 

Freedom From

Part one of the plan is focused on the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s Five Freedoms: Freedom from hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain, injury or disease; fear and distress; and the freedom to express normal behavior. 

“We started raising chickens a long time ago,” Stewart-Brown says. “Every year we learn new things and I would say that in the past 10 years that has accelerated. That acceleration is due to a lot of changes in the company and through the fact that we have moved to a ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ production.” 

Perdue has addressed hunger and thirst by removing antibiotics and animal byproducts from its feed. To enhance the birds’ nutrition, the company has added herbs like thyme and oregano that help build the immune system and keep them healthy. “We have embraced probiotics,” Stewart-Brown says. “I’m convinced probiotics are helpful. It encourages the good bacteria.”

Moving forward, Perdue will design and implement an approach to baby chick nutrition that better supports its birds as they develop their immune, skeletal and other foundational systems that help keep them healthy later in life. “The first feed the animal gets has to be spectacular,” Stewart-Brown says. 

Perdue Animal Care policyTo provide freedom from discomfort, Perdue operates advanced temperature control systems in all its poultry houses. Although Perdue’s goal is to eliminate the use of all antibiotics, the company will never withhold veterinary care, which addresses keeping the animal free from pain, injury and disease. 

Because the transport and unloading process at Perdue’s harvest plants can be stressful to the animals, its turkey harvest plant uses a Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) system that renders the bird unconscious prior to unloading. Once fully implemented in all the plants, this system will address both freedom from discomfort and freedom from fear and distress. 

“The unloading process can be stressful and sometimes cause injury,” Stewart-Brown explains. “We have a CAS system in the turkey harvest plant and will build one in the chicken plant by the end of 2017. We are committing all processing plants [to the CAS system] over the next several years.”  

Encouraging Normal Behavior

Perdue is also addressing the freedom to express normal patterns of behavior by providing enrichments or toys to encourage curiosity, get the birds moving and providing access to natural light. By the end of 2016, Perdue will install windows in 200 existing poultry houses to compare bird health and activity to enclosed housing.

Georgie Cartanza, a 10-year poultry farmer from Camden, Del., raises 156,000 chickens annually. As a Perdue farmer, Cartanza’s chicken houses were retrofitted with windows a year-and-a-half ago, allowing natural light in. “I’m happier to be in there,” she says. “It’s much brighter and more comfortable. I can see a change in bird activity, they play more and are more content.” 

In addition to the windows, enrichments were also put into the houses, including a ramp for the birds to hop up on and explore. “I definitely think those things are improvements,” Cartanza adds. “I’m glad to be a part of this change. We are changing from being reactive to being much more proactive. When you know better you do better, and this is a better way to raise chickens.” 

Click here to read more about each freedom and how Perdue will strengthen its relationships with farmers and stay transparent.  

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