Perdue Farms has unveiled a four-part commitment to accelerating progress in animal care that the family-owned company says will change how it raises chickens.
In a carefully worded press statement issued on Monday, chairman Jim Perdue said the plan—titled “2016 and Beyond: Next Generation of Perdue Commitments to Animal Care”—was an important step to take as customers are clamoring for transparency. Those customers, Perdue said, “are interested knowing how we raise, care for, and harvest our chickens.”
The poultry producer says it wants to take steps to ensure that chickens aren’t just healthy, but also living in an environment where they can express “normal behaviors”—essentially the idea is that the chickens can be happier. Perdue says farmers are responding favorably to the improved husbandry methods, while on the consumer side of the equation, Americans are increasingly interested in how animals are being raised for food.
Food manufacturers, restaurants, and grocers are all making bolder statements to tell Americans more about the food they eat, outlining changes to how that food is sourced and what ingredients are used—as well as improving conditions for animals. Earlier this year, Whole Foods Market (WFM) announced it would replace all of its fast-growing chicken breeds with slower-growing breeds.
Perdue’s commitments include:
- Retrofitting 200 chicken houses with windows by the end of 2016 to compare bird health and activity to enclosed housing that exists today.
- Improving relationships with farmers by creating an “open dialogue” about best practices.
- “Proactively” engaging with academics and animal care experts, opening itself up to criticism.
- Setting a goal to double the activity of its chickens in the next three years.
Many of Perdue’s commitments sound a bit vague. Only a few elements—adding some window installations and the study of added perches and bales of hay—seem poised to deliver short-term goals. But ultimately, the company seems to be saying it will make progress over time. Along those lines, Perdue plans to release an annual report to outline how far it has gone to reach specific targets.