Why One Perdue Factory Farmer Speaks Out
An Unlikely Partnership
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 story.
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 achieve that.”
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 humanewashing.
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 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 system. We are asking them to source from farms that raise healthier, happier chickens with:
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.