Thursday, September 21, 2023

Perdue Farms shares progress on animal care goals

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New initiatives shared during fifth annual Animal Care Summit

SALISBURY, Md. — Perdue Farms hosted its fifth annual Animal Care Summit, held virtually this year 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 company’s 100th year, we 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 Poultry and Meat. “Strong animal husbandry and stewardship keep our animals healthier and, importantly, we believe translate to a better product for consumers.”

During the 2020 meeting, Perdue subject-matter experts shared the latest updates on the company’s industry-leading animal welfare goals and initiatives, including:

  • Raising more than 25 percent of chickens with outdoor access.
  • Testing the feasibility and benefits of on-farm hatching to improve early chicken care.
  • Collaborating on a first-of-its-kind animal welfare research with an animal advocacy group.
  • Opening three Poultry Learning Centers, which are viewing farms that offer an interactive experience for visitors to learn about poultry farming and proper animal care.

A panel of poultry farmers from Delaware, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania discussed their experiences growing free-range chickens for Perdue, including the importance of maintaining a consistent routine, the birds’ inclination to spend time outside, and how they deal with challenges such as protecting the animals from predators. The farmers also discussed their pride in producing food for the nation and shared insights on Perdue’s response throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

As Perdue continues to expand the number of its chickens raised with outdoor access, the company turned to its free-range farming partners over the past year to learn more about key drivers that entice birds outside to utilize the pasture available to them. The company hosted a first-ever contest to see which farmer gets the most birds outside, and how they did it. Participating farmers filmed their birds outside in the pasture and provided answers and data on the techniques they believed were instrumental in attracting their birds outside, such as what kind of ramps they use, their routines, landscaping, and more. Perdue announced the winner, Andrew McLean of Centerville, Md., during the summit. Some of the techniques McLean has implemented include allowing grass to grow at different heights to provide habitat for birds of different ages and planting fruit trees in his pasture, which provide shade and an additional feed source.

The company also announced 10 new initiatives it will implement in 2021, including 1) working to identify the top three issues in “heavy birds,” 2) researching the welfare implications of raising birds of different ages, growth rates, feather color, and other factors in the same flock, 3) researching on-farm hatching, 4) researching the animal care advantages of getting chicks to feed and water faster, 5) holding a second Free Range Pasture Contest, 6) testing an early chick water supplement for nutritional and stress support, 7) determining one method to describe and measure success in getting free-range birds to utilize pasture, 8) reducing culls in the two to four week time period by 15 percent, 9) introducing a Young Farmer Development group, and 10) expanding Animal Care Incentives, which can generate more revenue for farmers, to a second operation.

Perdue’s Animal Care program now includes nearly 70 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.

For more information, please view the highlights reel and full recording of the event and visit Perdue’s Commitments to Animal Care website at

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