The Perdue Commitments to Animal Care is a four-part program to accelerate our progress in animal care by giving our chickens what they need and want, strengthening farmer relationships, building trust with multiple stakeholder groups and creating an animal care culture for continuous improvement. Each year, we report on our progress and the initiatives we are undertaking under each of these four steps.
Our Chickens' Needs and Wants
Openness, Transparency and Trust
A Journey of Continuous Improvement
As we progress from meeting the needs of our chickens to providing for their wants, we are charting our progress using the Five Freedoms.
We found that adding fiber to our chickens’ diet has positive benefits on gastrointestinal tract development and overall health.
In 2017, we set a goal to work with our farmers to improve paw (foot) quality scores by 10% over the winter (December 2017 through March 2018). Through changes in the chicken house environment, we achieved a 12.7% improvement. We are targeting a further 10% improvement for the winter of 2018-2019.
We're now working to improve the comfort of birds while they are transported from the farm.
Third-party video monitoring and auditing at our chicken harvest facilities and pilot programs in chicken catching are helping ensure our chickens are handled properly.
As an added level of assurance, we will conduct our own unannounced video audits of our Animal Care Program.
To gain a better understanding of how alternative breeds can address some of the health and welfare issues associated with today's fast-growing chickens, we tested a total of 11 different breeds and identified economically viable options for customers who want higher-welfare, slower-growing chickens. Our next step is to identify the behavioral tendencies of the different breeds.
We initiated a project to study the benefits and economic impact of increasing space per chicken by 10% compared with typical practices in the U.S. Going forward, we will assess the impact of space on behaviors.
We're putting added emphasis on leg health.
We're improving our culling programs.
We're studying mechanical chicken catching compared with conventional hand catching of chickens for harvest.
We're exploring ways to connect incentive pay to animal welfare outcomes, not just productivity.
Following our belief that more-active chickens are healthier chickens, we continue to progress toward our goal of increased bird activity in our chicken houses.
We proved that installing windows has positive benefits, and we plan to have windows in all houses raising our chickens by the summer of 2021.
We are continuing to expand the number of farms with free-range, outdoor access.
We are engaging our farmers to design better enrichments for our chickens.
We successfully implemented a controlled-atmosphere stunning (CAS) system at our Milford, Del., harvest plant in November 2017.
By December 1, 2018, we will switch to higher-welfare catching drawers and eliminate the step of transferring conscious birds from the transport modules to a moving conveyor.
We will also study an environmentally controlled lairage area to reduce stress on chickens after transport to the plant.
We are committed to building stronger relationships with the farmers who care for our chickens.
We developed a program for including windows in all new poultry house construction, and we are covering the cost of converting existing houses.
We launched a dedicated website for the farmers who raise our chickens.
We're sharing our Farmer Relationship Index with our farmers. We finished FY18 with a score of 81 against a goal of 80.
We will be transparent and will build lasting relationships with our stakeholders.
We will continuously improve by learning, listening and responding while building a culture of animal care.
We installed a controlled-atmosphere stunning system at our Milford, Del., chicken harvest plant.
We continued to increase the number of chicken houses with windows and learned that natural light is important to how chickens rest.
We were the only major poultry company actively studying alternative breeds, both to meet growing customer demand for higher-welfare chickens and to identify the traits that contribute to healthier chickens.
We launched a dedicated website to improve communication with the farmers who raise our chickens.
We implemented video monitoring in our harvest plants and piloted it in the catching process.
We held our second Animal Care Summit—bringing together animal care experts and advocates, customers, farmers and our leadership—in July 2017, and our third will be held in July 2018.