95% of all farmed animals in the United States are chickens
raised for meat. That’s almost 9 billion animals. According to Pilgrim's Pride website, "1 out of every 5 chickens in the US comes from Pilgrim's."
Pilgrim's Pride, the 2nd largest chicken company in the country, sent a letter to its contract farmers saying they should not let anyone, apart from essential people, into their chicken houses for “biosecurity and confidentiality” reasons. What were they hiding? Thanks to whistleblower farmers Mike Weaver and Eric Hedrick, now we know the truth. These brave farmers took video cameras into their chicken houses to show us the realities of factory farming.
“If there’s one thing I would change it would be changing the genetics of the bird and making them more robust, and not just breeding them for larger breasts. I would try to breed in natural immunities, and good bones and joints.”
-Mike Weaver, Pilgrim’s Pride contract farmer
Today's conventional chickens have been selectively bred to grow so big, so fast they often cannot support the weight of their own unnaturally large breasts. This fast growth can have other dire consequences for the birds, such as leg deformities, heart attacks, foodpad dermatitis, hockburns, and more. On top of that, the birds are kept in overcrowded houses with no access to natural light or the outdoors, and denied enrichment that encourages natural behavior.
“About a year and a half ago we started getting gangrenous dermatitis. It’s almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out.”
-Eric Hedrick, Pilgrim’s Pride contract farmer
Fast-growing chicken breeds can also have poor immune function, making them more susceptible to disease. Plus, the crowded, dirty, and warm environments they are kept in are perfect for bacterial disease to thrive. Gangrenous dermatitis is a bacteria that infects soft tissue, causing disturbing skin lesions on chickens like the ones seen in our video. Farmers are concerned that some of the diseased birds are going off to slaughter, and ending up on dinner plates.
We believe there is a better way. With your help, we can improve the lives of billions of chickens, and create a more transparent food system for consumers.
Ask Pilgrim's Pride for better chicken
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. As a minimum, we ask chicken companies to provide the following:
- Natural light
- More space
- Enrichment that encourages natural behavior
- Use breeds that allow for slower-growth and healthier birds
The Better Chicken Initiative is about consumers like you demanding a better quality of life for chickens, and a healthier food and farming system for all.
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
Factory farming hurts everyone from animals, to consumers, to farmers. As animal welfare advocates, Compassion in World Farming has forged unlikely partnerships with chicken factory farm owners in order to reform the industry from within.
Recently, contract farmer Craig Watts broke his silence on what it's like to raise chickens for Perdue, the third largest chicken company in the US. He invited Compassion in World Farming to his farm to show the world inside his chicken houses. This was the first time a chicken factory farmer owner stood shoulder to shoulder with animal advocates, asking to reform the chicken industry. His story has reached over 100 million people to date. As a result of our unlikely partnership, the USDA is no longer verifying Perdue chicken as "humanely raised."
Today, we stand with Pilgrim's Pride chicken contract farmers to ask for better treatment of chickens. Farmers like Mike and Eric risk everything by speaking out to show consumers where their food comes from. They've partnered with Compassion in World Farming because we have a common goal to reform our food, and we get results. Join the fight for a more humane, fair, sustainable, and transparent food system!
Contact Pilgrim's Pride today
HELP MOTIVATE MORE FOOD COMPANIES
The issues associated with fast-growing breeds, overcrowding, and lack of environmental enrichment are unfortunately not exclusive to Pilgrim's Pride. These are standard throughout most of the industry. However, some encouraging progress has been made recently.
There are some independent food label programs that have meaningful animal welfare standards. One such certification program, Animal Welfare Approved, currently requires all chicken in their program to be a slower-growing breed with outdoor access.
Another certification program, Global Animal Partnership (GAP), recently committed to slower-growth rate genetics and ensuring more space, enrichment, and natural light for all chickens by 2024. The 8 year phase-in applies to over 600 GAP rated farms and 277 million chickens. This is especially significant because Whole Foods Market requires all fresh and frozen chicken sold in their stores to be GAP certified.
Help us encourage more food companies to make similar commitments by signing the Better Chicken Initiative Petition.
You can look for meaningful labels like these at your grocery store, or visit their websites to see where products are sold near you. You can also ask your grocer to get them in stock. You have the power to change how chickens are raised by making your voice heard by producers and retailers!
Today there is a huge variety of meatless alternatives to chicken and other animal products. You can learn more about going meat, egg, and dairy free here. You can also try plant-based chicken products like these, available at most major grocers:
Perdue chicken factory farm owner Craig Watts breaks his silence and opens the doors of his chicken houses to the world.
The Hermans quit chicken factory farming for good, and decided to start a pasture-raised, rotational grazing model farm instead.
- Ask Pilgrim's Pride for better chicken
- Share the video
- Sign the Better Chicken Initiative petition
- Donate today
Special thanks to filmmaker Raegan Hodge.