In an effort to increase transparency, Perdue Foods, one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S., has announced revolutionary animal welfare standards that will impact more than 600 million birds per year. Most importantly, this plan recognizes what Farm Forward has been saying for over a decade: chicken genetics are the key to rebuilding a more humane and sustainable poultry industry. Their unprecedented Four-Part Plan is the most comprehensive animal welfare policy to date in industrial agriculture. Inspired by the “Five Freedoms”—animal welfare standards defined by Farm Animal Welfare Council—Perdue’s plan addresses space requirements, natural light, and increased activity levels for chickens. It also acknowledges the necessity of making farmers part of the solution, an issue Farm Forward has championed for years.
As the first national organization to focus on poultry genetics, Farm Forward has made genetically healthy birds a cornerstone of our work. We spearheaded the movement that led to a recent historic announcement by the nation’s leading farmed animal welfare certification, Global Animal Partnership (GAP), which has pledged to phase out by 2024 the fastest-growing strains of chickens currently accounting for more than 99 percent of chicken meat sold in the U.S. More than 600 chicken farms currently use the GAP standard, affecting the lives of 277 million chickens annually. This pledge also includes a commitment by Whole Foods Market to follow these new standards. Thanks to our perseverance, major companies like Perdue are now starting to listen. This new commitment by Perdue is so astonishing because it is poised to impact almost a billion chickens every year.
We’ve also worked for years to increase the demand for higher-welfare poultry products —our tool BuyingPoultry is the first authoritative rating system and database of poultry products and plant-based alternatives sold in the United States—and are encouraged that one of the largest chicken producers in the country is finally taking steps in the right direction by talking about the issues we’ve championed for years.
The specifics and timelines surrounding Perdue’s announcement are vague—we know that watchdog organizations are required to ensure that animal welfare is a true priority and not an empty claim to gain consumer loyalty—but if Perdue does follow through on its plan to improve animal welfare standards and relationships with farmers, it will set a strong precedent that other food producers won’t be able to ignore.
When Farm Forward began talking about poultry genetics nearly ten years ago, we were on our own. Thanks to our dedication and hard work, massive companies like Perdue Foods and Whole Foods Market have now pledged to improve animal welfare through genetics. Change is coming.