Perdue Farms has become the first major poultry producer in the United States to commit to adopting a process of stunning with gas, known as controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS), at all of its chicken slaughter plants. CAS is considered less stressful to birds than the industry’s standard practice of electric stunning, which involves shackling conscious birds by their legs and hanging them upside down before running their heads through an electrified water bath. Since birds at CAS plants are stunned before handling by workers, both poultry welfare and the working environment for employees is improved.
In addition to switching to CAS, Perdue is implementing a process that allows trucks to deliver birds in redesigned crates to a fully-enclosed, temperature-controlled holding area prior to slaughter. The Welfare of Birds at Slaughter in the United States, a 2016 report by AWI, chronicled several instances of birds dying from exposure as they languished in holding areas during inclement weather at various slaughter plants around the country. (None of the cited incidents were at Perdue plants.)
The first location to be redesigned will be Perdue’s Milford, Delaware, plant that slaughters chickens for the company’s organic and antibiotic-free brands. The new process at this plant is expected to be operational in the fall of 2018, with the next plant installation planned for 2019. Perdue Farms operates 10 chicken slaughter plants; its sole turkey slaughter plant switched to gas stunning in 2011.