Citing Animal Welfare, Perdue Changes How It Houses And Slaughters Chickens : The Salt Perdue Farms, one of the largest poultry companies in the country, says it will change its slaughter methods and also some of its poultry houses. Animal welfare groups are cheering.

In Quest For Happier Chickens, Perdue Shifts How Birds Live And Die

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One of the country's largest poultry companies announced today it plans to make life and death a little easier for its chickens. Perdue Farms is making changes that break with the industry's current standard practices, and animal welfare groups are pretty happy about it. NPR's Dan Charles has more.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Jim Perdue the chairman of Purdue Farms says he's noticed something about consumers especially millennials.

JIM PERDUE: They want to make sure that the animals are raised in, you know, as a caring way as possible with the least stress and the least discomfort.

PERDUE: But according to animal welfare groups, that's not happening. They've released videos showing chickens with broken legs or with breasts dragging on the floor. A year or so ago, Perdue Farms invited one of those groups, the Humane Society of the United States, to visit the company and lay out its critique. Here's Josh Balk from the Humane Society.

JOSH BALK: And we went through the top issues regarding the poor treatment of animals in the chicken industry, some of the issues the company saw themselves as a problem.

CHARLES: Today, Perdue announced an animal welfare initiative that Josh Balk says will set a precedent for the industry. For instance, right now when chickens arrive at a big processing plant, they're hung upside down in moving shackles and then stunned by an electric shock to make them unconscious before they're slaughtered. Perdue is promising to abolish the shackles and knock the birds out with gas instead.

BALK: So it's a dramatically less cruel way to kill these animals.

CHARLES: Perdue is also planning to change the poultry houses, adding windows to let in natural light, also perches for chickens to sit on. That's supposed to encourage the animals to be more active.

And finally, the company says it will at least study the idea of using breeds of chickens that grow a little more slowly. That could mean birds that are able to support their weight a little better, walk around more easily. Some of these changes will cost money. Perdue's just hoping they'll boost sales even more. Dan Charles, NPR News.

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