Yes. Even though the modern chicken house is fully enclosed, it provides the birds with fresh air. The large fans at the back of the house draw fresh air through the house to control temperature, keep the floor dry and reduce ammonia. In addition, there are numerous vents throughout the structure. As part of our Poultry Care program, we also monitor the air quality in the chicken houses, and our flock advisors are equipped air quality monitors that measure ammonia levels.
We use the same commercial chicken breeds as other companies. These are hybrid crosses that provide a meatier chicken with strong legs. Modern poultry houses that provide a comfortable environment for each stage of the chicken's life, and nutritionally balanced, high-protein diets are the biggest difference between chickens today and those of a few decades ago. At the same time, we share concerns about the continued emphasis on bigger chickens. Across all our flocks, our chickens grow about nine percent slower than the average. We’re studying how increasing bird activity and improving chicken nutrition can help the chickens develop stronger skeletal and muscle systems, and we’re also experimenting with slower-growing breeds, including heritage breeds.
Most people are surprised. In summer, it is cool; and warm in winter. The ventilation system keeps the floor dry, and brings in fresh air. The chickens are healthy and calm, eating, drinking, resting or moving about as they wish.
Just like other domesticated animals, the modern chicken has come a long way from its jungle forebears. Today's broilers are bred to do well in chicken houses, and our feeds ensure a balanced diet without using the inexpensive animal by-products common in most commercial chicken feed. (We've also found this diet results in a better-tasting PERDUE® chicken.)
No. It's important to remember that the chickens arrive as just-hatched chicks, and "grow into" the space in the chicken house. The house doesn't reach its full "density" until the last few days when the chickens reach market size. Even then, they have enough room to move about freely and access food and water without competition.
The coops used to transport chickens to the plant are specially designed to protect the birds from injury while on the truck. Keeping the birds close together provides a natural calming effect (they are, after all, birds of a feather) and offers further protection while the truck is in motion. During warm weather, the air blowing through the crates keeps the birds cool; coverings protect the birds in cold weather. At the plant, fans and water misters keep the birds comfortable on hot summer days. We limit the amount of time the birds are exposed to the elements through strict rules on how quickly trailers must be unloaded after arriving at the processing plant.
Our poultry welfare program includes strict procedures, welfare training for associates, regular auditing, video monitoring of areas where live poultry are handled, and USDA inspectors. Our USDA Process Verified Program provides an additional level of assurance, with documentation and reporting that is audited by the USDA.
We are in the process of moving from conventional electrical stunning to CO2 stunning. We have one plant converted to C02 stunning and will complete a second by the end of 2017, then progress steadily across all our operations.
With electrical stunning, the birds are first suspended upside down and close to each other in a darkened room, a process that helps reduce stress. They then quickly receive a mild electric shock to render them insensible. (Some birds may flutter their wings as an unconscious reflex.) The neck of the unconscious bird passes across a sharp place, which results in almost instantaneous death. (Any movement at this point is another example of unconscious reflex–“like a chicken with its head cut off.”) A person is assigned to ensure that this step is carried out properly and that no live birds enter the hot water bath that loosens feathers. USDA inspectors monitor compliance.
With C02 stunning (also called “controlled atmosphere”), the chickens are kept in the transport crates, where they are exposed to increasing levels of carbon dioxide that first put the birds to sleep, then brings about a complete lack of consciousness followed by the heart stopping.
Both systems, when properly managed, are equally effective at rendering the chicken insensible to pain. With both systems, we have a zero tolerance for birds regaining consciousness.