Over the past five years, a few major US poultry companies have committed to working toward improving the lives of chickens raised for meat. These commitments address the breeding of chickens and their treatment on the farm, including more space per bird and an enriched environment to encourage natural behaviors. Also included in many of the commitments is transitioning to a less inhumane method of slaughter.
According to its 2020 company stewardship report, Perdue Farms—fourth largest chicken processor in the United States—has made progress toward its animal welfare goals. The report claims that 52 percent of its poultry houses now have windows to allow for natural light, 26 percent provide some form of enrichment, and 25 percent offer birds the opportunity to go outdoors. In addition, Perdue reports that it has completed the conversion of its largest slaughter plant from electrical stunning to the less stressful controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS), using gas to render chickens insensible before slaughter. The company says it also has conducted research into breeds of chickens that grow slower and have better health and welfare than conventional, fast-growing breeds.
Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest chicken processor, is also making advancements in the care of its chickens. The company has implemented remote video auditing at 33 of its poultry slaughter plants and is launching a project to assess its process for catching birds on the farm. Tyson, which already uses CAS at its turkey plant and two of its chicken plants, reports plans to convert four more plants to CAS in the next few years.
While AWI does not consider either of these companies’ animal care protocols to be high welfare, these are promising moves in the right direction.