Despite Perdue’s High Welfare Standards, Some Chickens Can’t Survive 45 Days

Kelly Guerin / We Animals

By: Jennifer Mishler
Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a filmmaker for We Animals Media (WAM), Kelly Guerin has traveled to farms and slaughterhouses around the world to document the life and death of the farmed animals confined inside.

Most poultry farms look the same, says Guerin, easily recognized by their long barns with fluorescent lighting and the noise of whirring fans. But this chicken farm is the first she’s gained access to in the United States—where chickens account for 95 percent of the land animals killed for food each year—and, as she puts it, is “the first with a company name I recognized, who sends chickens to very familiar restaurants.”

This time, a farmer invited her in, wanting to talk openly about being caught up in the supply chain of Perdue Farms.

The farm, owned by Rudy Howell, contracts exclusively with Perdue which slaughters 700 million chickens each year making it the country’s fourth-largest poultry producer.

“[Perdue] calls themselves a family farm, but they’re a corporate farm. They have control over everything out here,” he said.

On Perdue’s website, they proudly claim, “We give our chickens room to roam.” In February, Perdue reported having met its goal of 25 percent of its chicken supplier farms meeting “free-range” standards, which still allow crowded barns as long as there is a way for birds to access the outdoors, however limited.

On the farm, Guerin witnessed what rapid growth in chickens actually looks like and why animal protection groups are pushing to end the practice.

Along with confined environments and overweight birds, culling is a daily reality inside factory farms that, before COVID-19, often went unseen. Perdue is no exception.

As Guerin toured Howell’s farm, she was shown how sick and dying young birds are killed. Farmers often use a method called cervical dislocation, in which a chicken’s head is stretched away from the body, as the bird is decapitated by hand. According to Perdue and the rest of the poultry industry, this is considered an acceptable way for farmed chickens to be killed.

In fact, a reminder to cull animals daily was listed on signs provided by Perdue and posted on the doors of the barn during Guerin’s tour.
The Rise of Factory Farmed Chicken
In the late 1920s, chickens became the first large-scale farmed animals, bred and raised indoors for egg production. The 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow Contest, marked the start of significant investment in the world of poultry production. What was then a 3 billion dollar industry with chickens bred for “plumper thighs” has now grown into a $48.3 billion dollar industry, where chickens are bred for rapid growth leading to the conditions we see today:  CHICKENS ARE THE MOST FACTORY-FARMED LAND ANIMAL ON EARTH. But they didn’t use to be. According to PEW Trusts, in 1950, more than 1.6 million farms grew chickens for American consumers. By 2007, 98 percent of those farms were gone, and Americans were eating even more chicken. Broiler sales jumped by 8 billion birds (1,400%), meaning nearly all of them were raised on a factory farm. 

The U.S. chicken market is now largely controlled by four companies—Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s (JBS), Sanderson Farms, and Perdue Foods—all of which own and operate large-scale chicken farms. In 2019, Tyson Foods slaughtered 45 million chickens per week within 183 facilities. Being one of the top meat producers in the United States means that production cycles must be fast, animals must be bred in large quantities, and the slaughtering process must be continuous, leading to the increased potential for severe animal suffering and workplace injuries.

Organizations including Animal Outlook and PETA have conducted investigations at Tyson suppliers and processors unveiling severe abuse, neglect, and physiological issues as a result of selective breeding. One worker told an undercover investigator for PETA that, “Yesterday, I ain’t gonna lie, man, I straight up broke one’s back…I hurt an innocent chicken because the other chickens made me mad.”
 U.S. CHICKEN PRODUCTION IS BOOMING. For lack of more elegant phrasing, people want cheap chicken and they want a lot of it. Producers know this, and they’ve shaped their supply chains to accompany the booming demand. Fifty years ago, chickens became the first animals to be farmed at a large-scale. At the time, scientists believed there would be no way to continue feeding animal products to a rapidly growing human population without farming animals more efficiently. So they stuck animals in barns, crammed them in cages, and turned the farm into a well-oiled machine.

Today, roughly 25 million chickens are killed for food each day in the U.S. alone. To document the undisputed cruelty within modern chicken farms, Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals produced Undercover: Stories from a Former Investigator. This short film documents former undercover investigator, Geoff Regier, and his time handling chickens on more than 50 farms and one processing plant for Maple Lodge Farms in Ontario, Canada.

“You stop seeing suffering. You stop seeing individuals. Animal dying alone on the floor becomes just a mess to be cleaned up. Otherwise good people, people with families and senses of humor are doing terrible things to animals because that’s how the system is set up,” Regier states.
 CHICKEN PRODUCERS IN THE U.S. SET GLOBAL STANDARDS FOR ANIMAL WELFARE. Over the past 10 years, large-scale farming practices honed in the U.S. have spilled over into Europe. And in an attempt to meet the steadily rising global demand for chicken, Europe’s poultry production centers have become overrun with factory farms. Although European farms with more than 5,000 broilers barely represent 1 percent of the total number of broiler farms in the EU, they account for more than nine in 10 broiler chickens.

Every year, more than 60 billion chickens live and die on factory farms around the world. They spend their lives crowded into industrial feeding operations where they barely have enough room to flap their wings. Many suffocate and die due to overcrowding. Then, over the course of just 40 days, they reach full size.

After the birds’ accelerated growing period—which can cause heart disease, lethargy, and lameness—they are sent to slaughter. Factory farmed chickens live their lives confined, without access to sunlight, for less than six weeks before they are killed, sent to be processed, and sold by the world’s largest fast-food companies.
Guerin saw some young chicks who had just arrived from the hatchery and already “could only take a few steps and then plop down. They had their legs splayed out beneath them.” Some tried and were unable to walk away as she got closer. “They would be laying there, breathing heavily, eyes closed,” she says.

“These animals have been bred to grow so fast that their hearts and legs can hardly keep up with the pressure from their bulking bodies,” says WAM founder Jo-Anne McArthur. “To some, death comes quickly. Others wither slowly away.”

If factory farming has become the new normal for chickens, and even the highest animal welfare standards aren’t enough, should companies like Perdue be able to claim that they are committed to animal care?  

Read the full story here
Our next session will leave you with the tools you need to develop your personal brand and develop your social profile.

New York Times bestselling author and top web influencer Neil Patel, vegan influencer and producer of The Invisible Vegan Jasmine Leyva, and social media influencer John Oberg will teach you how to harness the power of social media.

Limited tickets available—secure your spot now.
Covering COVID-19
With the worst global pandemic we’ve seen in over a century, it’s more important than ever to make sure the truth is reported in its entirety, not just what’s convenient.

Help us share the facts during these uncertain times and make sure the world knows our species cannot survive if we continue our exploitation of the planet and nonhuman animals.
Kelly Guerin / We Animals
Despite Perdue’s High Welfare Standards, Some Chickens Can’t Survive 45 Days
By: Jennifer Mishler
Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a filmmaker for We Animals Media (WAM), Kelly Guerin has traveled to farms and slaughterhouses around the world to document the life and death of the farmed animals confined inside.

Most poultry farms look the same, says Guerin, easily recognized by their long barns with fluorescent lighting and the noise of whirring fans. But this chicken farm is the first she’s gained access to in the United States—where chickens account for 95 percent of the land animals killed for food each year—and, as she puts it, is “the first with a company name I recognized, who sends chickens to very familiar restaurants.”

This time, a farmer invited her in, wanting to talk openly about being caught up in the supply chain of Perdue Farms.

The farm, owned by Rudy Howell, contracts exclusively with Perdue which slaughters 700 million chickens each year making it the country’s fourth-largest poultry producer.

“[Perdue] calls themselves a family farm, but they’re a corporate farm. They have control over everything out here,” he said.

On Perdue’s website, they proudly claim, “We give our chickens room to roam.” In February, Perdue reported having met its goal of 25 percent of its chicken supplier farms meeting “free-range” standards, which still allow crowded barns as long as there is a way for birds to access the outdoors, however limited.

On the farm, Guerin witnessed what rapid growth in chickens actually looks like and why animal protection groups are pushing to end the practice.

Along with confined environments and overweight birds, culling is a daily reality inside factory farms that, before COVID-19, often went unseen. Perdue is no exception.

As Guerin toured Howell’s farm, she was shown how sick and dying young birds are killed. Farmers often use a method called cervical dislocation, in which a chicken’s head is stretched away from the body, as the bird is decapitated by hand. According to Perdue and the rest of the poultry industry, this is considered an acceptable way for farmed chickens to be killed.

In fact, a reminder to cull animals daily was listed on signs provided by Perdue and posted on the doors of the barn during Guerin’s tour.
The Rise of Factory Farmed Chicken
In the late 1920s, chickens became the first large-scale farmed animals, bred and raised indoors for egg production. The 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow Contest, marked the start of significant investment in the world of poultry production. What was then a 3 billion dollar industry with chickens bred for “plumper thighs” has now grown into a $48.3 billion dollar industry, where chickens are bred for rapid growth leading to the conditions we see today:  CHICKENS ARE THE MOST FACTORY-FARMED LAND ANIMAL ON EARTH. But they didn’t use to be. According to PEW Trusts, in 1950, more than 1.6 million farms grew chickens for American consumers. By 2007, 98 percent of those farms were gone, and Americans were eating even more chicken. Broiler sales jumped by 8 billion birds (1,400%), meaning nearly all of them were raised on a factory farm. 

The U.S. chicken market is now largely controlled by four companies—Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s (JBS), Sanderson Farms, and Perdue Foods—all of which own and operate large-scale chicken farms. In 2019, Tyson Foods slaughtered 45 million chickens per week within 183 facilities. Being one of the top meat producers in the United States means that production cycles must be fast, animals must be bred in large quantities, and the slaughtering process must be continuous, leading to the increased potential for severe animal suffering and workplace injuries.

Organizations including Animal Outlook and PETA have conducted investigations at Tyson suppliers and processors unveiling severe abuse, neglect, and physiological issues as a result of selective breeding. One worker told an undercover investigator for PETA that, “Yesterday, I ain’t gonna lie, man, I straight up broke one’s back…I hurt an innocent chicken because the other chickens made me mad.”
 
U.S. CHICKEN PRODUCTION IS BOOMING. For lack of more elegant phrasing, people want cheap chicken and they want a lot of it. Producers know this, and they’ve shaped their supply chains to accompany the booming demand. Fifty years ago, chickens became the first animals to be farmed at a large-scale. At the time, scientists believed there would be no way to continue feeding animal products to a rapidly growing human population without farming animals more efficiently. So they stuck animals in barns, crammed them in cages, and turned the farm into a well-oiled machine.

Today, roughly 25 million chickens are killed for food each day in the U.S. alone. To document the undisputed cruelty within modern chicken farms, Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals produced Undercover: Stories from a Former Investigator. This short film documents former undercover investigator, Geoff Regier, and his time handling chickens on more than 50 farms and one processing plant for Maple Lodge Farms in Ontario, Canada.

“You stop seeing suffering. You stop seeing individuals. Animal dying alone on the floor becomes just a mess to be cleaned up. Otherwise good people, people with families and senses of humor are doing terrible things to animals because that’s how the system is set up,” Regier states.
 
CHICKEN PRODUCERS IN THE U.S. SET GLOBAL STANDARDS FOR ANIMAL WELFARE. Over the past 10 years, large-scale farming practices honed in the U.S. have spilled over into Europe. And in an attempt to meet the steadily rising global demand for chicken, Europe’s poultry production centers have become overrun with factory farms. Although European farms with more than 5,000 broilers barely represent 1 percent of the total number of broiler farms in the EU, they account for more than nine in 10 broiler chickens.

Every year, more than 60 billion chickens live and die on factory farms around the world. They spend their lives crowded into industrial feeding operations where they barely have enough room to flap their wings. Many suffocate and die due to overcrowding. Then, over the course of just 40 days, they reach full size.

After the birds’ accelerated growing period—which can cause heart disease, lethargy, and lameness—they are sent to slaughter. Factory farmed chickens live their lives confined, without access to sunlight, for less than six weeks before they are killed, sent to be processed, and sold by the world’s largest fast-food companies.
Guerin saw some young chicks who had just arrived from the hatchery and already “could only take a few steps and then plop down. They had their legs splayed out beneath them.” Some tried and were unable to walk away as she got closer. “They would be laying there, breathing heavily, eyes closed,” she says.

“These animals have been bred to grow so fast that their hearts and legs can hardly keep up with the pressure from their bulking bodies,” says WAM founder Jo-Anne McArthur. “To some, death comes quickly. Others wither slowly away.”

If factory farming has become the new normal for chickens, and even the highest animal welfare standards aren’t enough, should companies like Perdue be able to claim that they are committed to animal care?  

Read the full story here

Our next session will leave you with the tools you need to develop your personal brand and develop your social profile.

New York Times bestselling author and top web influencer Neil Patel, vegan influencer and producer of The Invisible Vegan Jasmine Leyva, and social media influencer John Oberg will teach you how to harness the power of social media.

Limited tickets available—secure your spot now.
Covering COVID-19
With the worst global pandemic we’ve seen in over a century, it’s more important than ever to make sure the truth is reported in its entirety, not just what’s convenient.

Help us share the facts during these uncertain times and make sure the world knows our species cannot survive if we continue our exploitation of the planet and nonhuman animals.

1 thought on “Despite Perdue’s High Welfare Standards, Some Chickens Can’t Survive 45 Days

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s