A new story by Fusion Television airing tonight unfairly portrays the realities of modern chicken production and ignores the tremendous progress America’s family farmers and chicken companies have made by working together to produce safe and affordable food.
Farmers and processors have an ethical obligation to treat animals humanely, and from a pure business standpoint, it does not benefit a farmer or a company to harm birds in any way. The birds are their livelihoods, and chicken farmers and processors aim to do everything possible to keep them healthy. Both are held accountable by their ethics, their customers and government oversight. Each company adheres to the National Chicken Council’s Animal Welfare Guidelines – routinely updated with assistance from veterinarians, animal welfare experts and animal scientists – as well as the welfare requirements of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. Routine welfare checks and verifications are carried out during third-party audits on the farm and in the processing plant.
“It is my understanding that the company has devoted more resources and time to help Mr. Watts raise the best and healthiest birds that he can,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications at the National Chicken Council. “It’s not only ethically and morally the right thing to do, but it’s in the company’s and the farmer’s economic interest to raise and bring to market the healthiest birds possible.
“We also support consumer choice in the market place and believe all production systems can coexist. If people would like to choose pasture raised, organic or free range chicken with their food dollars, those options are available. But one production system should not be vilified at the expense of others.”
American poultry production is a global model of progress and efficiency. Consider the following:
- Between 1990 and 2010, incentives built into farmers’ contracts and research by chicken companies has greatly improved the welfare of chickens, significantly reducing bird death loss. Mortality and condemnation rates are at all-time lows.
- Farmers no longer bear the financial risks of fluctuating feed, medication, baby chick and live broiler prices. They are insulated from those volatile swings.
- Between 1990 and 2010, incentives in farmer contracts resulted in a 16 percent increase in pounds produced per square foot of barn—a key factor in grower income.
- Between 1990 and 2010, improved production per square foot and higher payment rates per pound produced resulted in a 65 percent increase in farmer income per square foot of the barn.
- Loan default rates of chicken farmers are among the lowest of any segment of agriculture.
The vast majority of the 25,000 family farms who are supported in this system have had successful and mutually beneficial partnerships with chicken companies for decades. According to a University of Delaware Extension Service study: 73 percent of farmers were satisfied with their business as poultry growers; 75 percent were satisfied with their relationship with the companies; and the vast majority, almost nine out of 10 chicken growers stated they had a good relationship with their company flock supervisor, and that their flock supervisors help them become better growers.
An independent panel of animal welfare experts, veterinarians and scientists reviewed some of the video footage that was included in this Fusion broadcast. Their report can be read here.
To watch a video about the partnership that exists between family farmers and integrated chicken companies, click here.
To hear from other farmers who raise chickens for Perdue, please visit www.perduepoultrywelfare.com
For more information about how the chicken industry is structured and what chicken farmers say in their own words, click here.