Update! After discussions with Compassion in World Farming, Perdue Farms has released the first ever detailed animal welfare policy by a major chicken company. It lays out their current practices and plans for improvement.
Perdue has committed to:
- Doubling the rate of the birds’ physical activity within three years. Importantly, they name slower-growing breeds as one solution to achieve this.
- Requiring windows for natural light in all new chicken houses, and in 200 existing houses.
- Having Controlled Atmosphere Stunning in all Perdue facilities, eventually.
- Sharing transparent metrics to be held accountable for animal welfare.
Compassion will continue to work with Perdue to make their commitments stronger. The genetics of the birds is a key priority, as slower-growing breeds have fewer leg abnormalities, respiratory issues, and immune problems. We ask Perdue to set timelines for all commitments, and to ensure all birds are given more space, natural light, enrichment, and slower-growth.
Use our form to send this email:
Subject: Please replace your factory farmed chicken marketed as 'natural'
Email the CEO of the store(s) you use:
Dear [Supermarket CEO],
As a regular customer of your stores, I was concerned to learn from this Compassion in World Farming video that chicken marketed as 'natural' and 'antibiotic-free,' such as your [Supermarket Brand] chicken, is actually raised in a conventional factory farmed environment.
I ask that you replace your [Supermarket Brand] chicken with a more humane option that uses meaningful third party auditing programs such as Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, or Global Animal Partnership.
Currently, this product does not align with American values. There is nothing natural or humane about factory farming.
I urge you to allow your [Supermarket Brand] chicken more space to move around, environmental enrichment, natural light, and slower growth.
Why do we need the better chicken initiative?
95% of all farmed animals in the United States are chickens
raised for meat. That’s over 8 billion animals.
Perdue, the third largest chicken producer in the country,
is claiming and the USDA is verifying that Perdue’s chickens are “humanely
raised.” Thanks to one brave farmer, Craig Watts, we now know better. The truth
is, the picture back on the farm is far from humane. Birds are bred to get so
big, so fast they can barely stand on their own two legs in their last week of
life. They are kept in overcrowded warehouses, deprived of natural light and
fresh air, spending their entire lives on a bed of feces-ridden litter that is
often not changed in between flocks.
Chicken in supermarkets is often labeled as “natural.” But
what does that mean? Unless there is a third party farm animal welfare auditing
certification, like Global Animal Partnership, Certified Humane, or Animal
Welfare Approved, the chickens are most likely raised in conventional factory
farms conditions with little meaning for animal welfare. There is nothing natural or humane about factory farming.
We believe there is a better way. With your help, we can
improve the lives of billions of chickens and create a more honest labeling
"I SUPPORT THE BETTER CHICKEN INITIATIVE BECAUSE I WANT TO RAISE THE BAR OF STANDARD CHICKENS TO A TOTALLY DIFFERENT LEVEL – ONE THAT IS AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE AND THAT I WOULD FEED TO MY OWN KIDS."
-Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and activist
Write to your supermarket now
Craig Watts went into chicken farming as a contract farmer
for one of the biggest chicken companies in the country, Perdue Farms, in order
to support his family. But after 22
years, he had reached breaking point. He
did something no one has done before. He invited a farm animal welfare
organization, Compassion in World Farming, onto his farm to help tell his
Compassion USA director Leah Garces says, “Craig and I
realized that we wanted the same thing. We want to reform the chicken industry,
and we have to stand shoulder to shoulder, farmer and animal advocate, to
Chickens today are genetic monsters raised in poor conditions:
BRED TO GROW UNNATURALLY FAST AND LARGE
Birds reach market weight in just 42 days (around 6 weeks of age), compared to 80-120 days for slow growth and traditional breeds. A high growth rate means a bird grows so unnaturally fast, she can have difficulty walking and breathing.
Over 30,000 birds are crowded into one enclosed house. The birds can have so little space to move around that their legs become even weaker through lack of exercise. The sheds are generally bare except for feeding and drinking points and litter (such as wood shavings) on the floor.
KEPT IN BARREN ENVIRONMENTS
With nothing but litter on the floor, feces build up over the bird's life, which they cannot escape from. Due to their high growth rates and high energy, protein dense diets, in the last weeks of life broilers spend more than 80% of their time inactive and sitting in this waste.
GIVEN NO NATURAL LIGHT
The houses are dimly lit, and day length is extended to 18 hours or more so that birds eat more and gain more weight. The broilers do not perform natural behaviors and are largely sleep deprived.
Misleading food labels like “natural” often come with an added cost to consumers, without any meaningful impact on the welfare of chickens or economic gain for the farmer. The USDA verifies Perdue’s chickens as humanely raised. In reality, this term also has no standard definition, and our video of this Perdue chicken farm proves
their claim is a far stretch from any common sense definition of humane.
In October 2014, Perdue and Kroger (the largest grocer in
the US) both settled
lawsuits by agreeing to remove humanely raised labels from packaging on
their Harvestland and Simple Truth chicken brands. However, the companies deny
any wrongdoing, and insist their labels are not misleading and their chickens
are “raised in a humane environment.”
No matter how they spin it, there is nothing humane or natural about factory farming. You can help end the
Write to your supermarket now
We believe a chicken should be allowed to be a chicken. This
means giving her enough room to move around freely, an enriched environment and
natural light to encourage natural behavior like scratching and wing flapping,
and genetics that don’t inherently cause suffering.
The good news is there is a better way that is achievable
right now. We are calling for 2 realistic actions:
1. Stop marketing and verifying factory farmed chicken as
natural or humane.
2. Improve living conditions and slow down growth rates for chickens.
The Better Chicken Initiative is about consumers like you demanding
a better quality of life for chickens and a healthier food and farming system
By joining the Better Chicken Initiative, you
become part of the movement to improve the lives of billions of chickens. Let
your voice be heard by the food companies in the driver’s seat of our food
system. We are asking them to source from farms that raise healthier, happier
|Slower growth rates and healthier legs.
||More space to move around and stretch their limbs.
||Enriched environments that allow them to engage in natural behaviors.
||Natural light allowing a more natural routine.
Only independent, third party labels like Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership currently identify meaningful welfare standards consumers can trust.
You can make this change happen. By writing to supermarkets, your voice will be heard by the food companies who have the power to change the way chickens are raised. Look below to find out other ways you can get involved and broaden your impact.
After visiting this Perdue farm, Mariana Van Zellar and an investigative team at Fusion are taking a deeper look at the chicken industry. Look out for their release in the coming months! Food businesses: find out what you can do to improve the lives of the chickens in your supply chain.
"WHETHER YOU ARE A CHEF OR A PARENT OR SUPERMARKET,
THIS IS A THRILLING PROJECT THAT EVERYONE SHOULD WANT TO BE PART OF."
-Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and activist
Special thanks to filmmaker Raegan Hodge.