- Perdue announced Monday sweeping reforms to animal welfare practices for its poultry flocks which could impact poultry processors across the industry.
- The overhaul includes windows installed in chicken barns, more spacious barns for chickens to move around, putting chickens to sleep before slaughter, and breeding changes that slow growth speed or decrease breast size, which could reduce the number and severity of chickens' leg injuries.
- The anticipated costs of these animal welfare practices have long been a concern and hindrance for meat processors. But Perdue told The New York Times that its experiences suggest those concerns may be overblown.
Animal welfare, and manufacturers' transparency about it, is also increasingly important to consumers today. Josh Balk, senior director of Food Policy at The Humane Society of the United States, told Food Dive that it's "virtually a guarantee" that other poultry processors will follow Perdue's lead to upgrade animal welfare practices, in part because of consumers' concerns.
Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. retailer and second-largest global retailer, announced to its suppliers last year that it expected them to abide by prescribed antibiotics and animal welfare practices. With retailers of that magnitude starting to demand that suppliers step up their animal welfare practices, this too could inspire changes.
However, Perdue's animal welfare attempts, and those by other manufacturers, are likely to be met with skepticism. Perdue's announcement was described as "the latest attempt by a giant corporation to pacify consumers with cheap talk on animal welfare while dancing around the fundamental issues with animal farming" in a statement emailed to Food Dive by animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere.
Perdue ended its relationship with two contract growers earlier this year after an employee was convicted on misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, which was revealed via hidden camera footage by animal rights group Mercy for Animals. The same group also released video of alleged animal abuses at a Tyson slaughterhouse last October.