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Perdue Foods has created a four-part plan to accelerate its progress in animal care, strengthen relationships with farmers, build trust with stakeholder groups and create an animal care culture for continued improvement.
Perdue developed the plan, “2016 and Beyond: Next Generation of Perdue Commitments to Animal Care,” with input from stakeholders such as farmers, academics and leaders of animal advocate organizations. It is said to be the first major company to commit to implementing such practices in raising and harvesting animals system-wide, encompassing not only animals but also the people who care for and handle them, as well as stakeholders with an interest in this area.
“As we continue to learn about innovative and better ways to raise animals through our ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ journey and our experience in raising organic chickens, we are adopting a four-part plan which will result in changing how we raise chickens,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “Transparency is very important to Perdue consumers, who are interested knowing how we raise, care for and harvest our chickens. Our vision is to be the most trusted name in food and agricultural products and animal care is a big part of that journey.”
The new plan summarizes current progress and details next-generation initiatives for each part. Perdue is putting program measurements in place, including audits by third parties, and will release an annual report announcing its progress in reaching specific goals.
Specifically, the plan commits to:
- The wants and needs of the animals: Based on “The Five Freedoms,” an internationally recognized standard for animal husbandry, Perdue’s commitment document lays out where the company is today on each of the five aspects, as well as future goals. For instance, the majority of chickens today are raised in fully enclosed barns without natural light. Perdue is committed to retrofitting 200 chicken houses with windows by the end of 2016 to compare bird health and activity to enclosed housing.
- The farmers that raise the chickens: Appreciating that chickens spend most of their time in the care of farmers, the plan stresses improved relationships with farmers. This includes creating an open dialogue about best practices in animal care, considering the farmer’s wellbeing and connecting animal care to pay and incentives.
- Openness, transparency and trust: The plan also calls for Perdue to be open to criticism of its current policies and procedures when deserved, share information about animal care initiatives, and proactively engage with a wide variety of animal welfare stakeholders, including advocates, academics and animal care experts.
- A journey of continuous improvement: The fourth part of the plan commits to ongoing learning and advancements in the company’s animal care programs to ensure the health and well-being of its birds through next-generation initiatives. This commitment will be driven by Perdue’s active Animal Care Council, which has been in place for more than 15 years.
“From lessons learned from organic chicken houses, it’s clear that there can be a general health benefit with increased activity—and that is a big focus of our plan,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, Perdue’s SVP of food safety, quality and live production. “Short-term goals that support increased activity include window installations in 200 existing poultry houses by the end of 2016 and studying the role of enrichments such as perches and bales of hay to encourage activity. Our goal is to double the activity of our chickens in the next three years.”