Perdue Farms continues progress on animal care commitments

The commitments were shared at the 7th annual Animal Care Summit
calendar icon 28 October 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

Perdue Farms hosted its seventh annual Animal Care Summit near its Maryland headquarters this year, after two years of hosting the annual event virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since announcing the company’s Commitments to Animal Care in 2016, the summit has been a key part of Perdue’s animal care strategy.

“Now in our second century of business, we at Perdue Farms are proud to continue making advancements and leading our industry in the standards to which we raise our animals,” said Mark McKay, president of Perdue Premium Poultry and Meats. “Animal husbandry and stewardship, including strong connections to our farmers and transparency with our stakeholders, keep our animals healthier and we believe translate to a better product for consumers.”

During the 2022 event, attendees, including NGOs, farmers, customers, academia, and Perdue associates, toured the company’s dedicated research farm to see first-hand progress from ongoing animal husbandry studies including:

  • Pasture Choice: Planting various vegetation in free-range pastures to study which options the birds gravitate to the most, as part of ongoing research around enticing birds with outdoor access to spend more time outside
  • Feed Choice: Instead of providing chickens feed with all-in-one nutrition, we provided birds with the option to choose between feed with higher protein vs. higher energy components, and studied which they preferred and how it impacted their growth and health
  • RFID: Providing an update to our research using RFID technology to track how frequently free-range chickens access their paddock
  • On-Farm Hatch: Studying the feasibility and benefits of allowing chicks to hatch in the chicken house rather than a hatchery to improve early care

In addition to the four topics showcased on the research farm, Perdue’s senior vice president of technical services and innovation, Bruce Stewart-Brown, provided updates to existing animal husbandry initiatives, including:

  • Developing an educational module around chicken behavior and using it to train Flock Advisors;
  • Building an enrichment program for Broiler Breeders with the assumption that it will be different from meat birds;
  • Developing a litter-condition scoring method to implement across all operations;
  • Determining if re-establishing the mother hen/chick relationship would benefit the chicks/chickens;
  • Finding a low-tech method to measure pasture utilization within free-range housing.​

Perdue gathered members of the Better Chicken Commitment Working Group for a discussion panel focused on how organizations are working across the multi-stakeholder group to advance standards for raising broiler chickens.

As consumers increasingly desire to know more about how the food they eat is grown and made, another panel of experts discussed the importance of transparency in consumer communications, which is a core tenant of Perdue’s approach to animal husbandry.

Additionally, subject-matter experts shared modern research related to how animal welfare and diet can translate to consumer benefits, including improved product flavor and nutrition, as well as how modern measurement of animal welfare practices can improve the implementation of learnings.

Coinciding with the annual summit, the company published its 2022 Commitments to Animal Care Report. Perdue’s Animal Care program now includes nearly 90 initiatives within the company’s four-part plan to accelerate its progress in poultry care. Established in 2016, the four-part plan includes:

  • Chickens: Based on the “Five Freedoms,” Perdue will go beyond just the needs of its chickens to also include what its chickens “want”.
  • Farms: Perdue will recommit to relationships with farmers who raise its animals.
  • Trust: In order to build trust, Perdue will be transparent in its programs, goals, and progress.
  • Continuous Improvement: Perdue will continue to build an Animal Care culture within the company through continuous improvement.
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