The Truth About Perdue Chicken - 2 Dads with Baggage
newly hatched chicks at Perdue Farms hatchery

The Truth About Perdue Chicken

Recently I had the opportunity to tour the Perdue Farms chicken facilities in Salisbury, Maryland. They promised to open the kimono and show us any part of the chicken raising and processing chain, from hatchling to table. Without going into great detail, I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the truth about Perdue Chicken. Like many of us, I didn’t understand the process taken by companies like Perdue in supplying quality food to American dinner tables. After this few days spent with the Perdue team as part of their new brand ambassador program, I walked away pretty darn impressed.

I feel 100% honest in telling you the truth about Perdue Chicken is positive, regardless of being paid as a brand ambassador. And I am being paid, so let’s put that right out there. Nonetheless, I learned about how Perdue humanely raises poultry in a healthy way for both the chickens and the people that eat them.

I’m no expert, but I did witness some interesting things I want to share with you.

A Perdue team member toured us through the egg hatchery, where 1.2 million chicks are hatched each week!

The Truth About Perdue Chicken

Truth #1: A Family That Truly Cares

In order to fully understand raising chickens from start to finish, we had to begin at the beginning. A visit to the original Perdue Family Farmhouse was instrumental in gaining understanding of the commitment this family has had to raising chickens. Inside the homestead, there are historical artifacts and records going all the way back to 1920 when Arthur Perdue started raising chickens in the backyard for their eggs. It was cool to see real people behind such a giant company. In fact, we were fortunate to meet the second, third and fourth generation Perdues who are still running this family business today.

Original Perdue Family Homestead in Salisbury, Maryland
The Perdue Family started their chicken business from this modest home in Salisbury, Maryland.

When I say a family that truly cares, I mean it. This is the most fundamental truth about Perdue Chicken: behind this enormous enterprise is a caring and dedicated family that still owns and runs it. The Perdues are regular, down to earth people that show up to garden parties in shorts and flip flops. A family that greets you on the porch of their family homestead with a beer in hand and a genuine smile. My corporate greed detector did not signal the alarms. This is an authentic family business. A big and successful one to be sure, but a good one.

Jim Perdue and Jon Bailey stand on porch of Perdue Family Home in Salisbury, Maryland
Standing with Perdue Farms CEO Jim Perdue on his grandfather’s porch where it all started.

Truth #2: Family Farmers are a Perdue Hallmark

Just like the Perdue Family has been doing this for nearly 100 years, the company only works with family farmers. Perdue does not own 98% of these chicken farms – they own the chickens themselves. Family farmers produce the eggs that are shipped to Perdue for hatching in their facilities. The chicks are distributed to family farms where they are raised. These farmers are typically mom-and-pop farmers raising those chickens until they are ready to be processed.

farmer explains about raising Perdue Farms organic chickens to visiting media
We visited an organic chicken farm, run by a family who raises chickens for Perdue.

These are real people – I met some of them. They are not mad scientists or money-hungry corporations robotically raising chickens like some factory. We visited the farms and saw the chickens in their barns. We talked with these families whose livelihood depends on successfully raising healthy chickens. These farms are inspected regularly by government officials as well as Perdue teams, making sure they can guarantee the facilities are clean and safe. In fact, Perdue policy requires farmers to go above and beyond the federal guidelines.

It was eye-opening for me to see the personal side of this story.

organic chicken farm with indoor/outdoor barn access
The chickens raised on this organic farm have full access to the outdoors every day.

Truth #3: Perdue is On the Cutting Edge of Animal Care

Several years ago, Perdue was called out by environmental groups for chicken farmers using some less-than-savory husbandry practices. It wasn’t pretty, and Perdue took serious heat. In response, the company did not try to hide from the situation. In fact, they worked together with several non-profit activist groups to form an annual Animal Care Summit.  Now in its fourth year, this national summit brings together those organizations for real conversations about how to do better. Perdue has been working with some of the top animal rights groups in the US to be at the top of humane practices.

One truth about Perdue Chicken is they are not 100% perfect. However, Perdue is now widely heralded as leading the charge within the entire US poultry industry. The company is lauded for its best practices in humane chicken farming. From egg to pullet to the chicken we buy from Perdue, the company can now tell you exactly how that chicken was raised humanely. In this process, Perdue has become the largest supplier of organic chicken in the entire US.

organic barns offer outdoors at Perdue Chicken
Chickens love to scratch in the grass and hunt bugs outdoors at this organic farm.

Truth #4: Hatcheries Are Not Dystopian Factories

Perdue produces A LOT of chicken. In order to do that, they hatch A LOT of chicks. In fact, they hatch about 1.2 million chicks a week at this facility. A WEEK!  Perdue sources these eggs from family farmers they have carefully vetted to ensure the laying hens are treated well.

Perdue Farms executive shows guests a fertile egg
A Perdue Farms executive shows visitors how to tell if an egg is fertile by shining a flashlight.

State of the art incubators help ensure a very high success rate. Eggs are kept at a perfect 98-degrees to simulate a hen’s body temperature. Special devices rotate and turn the eggs every hour, just like a mother hen moves her eggs around in the nest.

chicken eggs at Perdue Farms hatchery
Chicken eggs at the Perdue Farms hatchery await the day when baby chicks emerge.

Truth #5: Chickens Flock Together Naturally

When we view alarming photos of chickens crowded into small spaces with hardly room to move, it’s greatly upsetting without context. In fact, chickens are naturally flocking creatures that enjoy close quarters. I can attest to this – we raised chickens in our San Diego backyard for several years. They stuck close together regardless of having the free range of our backyard.

chicken pullets
Pullets like these grow to full size in well-maintained barns.

Touring the barns where these chickens are raised for Perdue, we noticed this flocking behavior immediately. The barn is enormous and there is plenty of room for the chickens to spread out and enjoy their own space. Instead, they are all crammed to one side or the other because that is their natural state. The truth is, chickens gain comfort from one another in close – often touching – proximity. Those scary photos of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions? Actually kind of manipulative in my view.

Chicken barn where pullets grow to full size for Perdue Chicken.

Truth #6: Perdue Chickens Lead a Good Life

There is a globally accepted standard for animal husbandry, and Perdue Chicken is a leader in the US. These Five Freedoms have been endorsed by the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). By going even above and beyond these guidelines, Perdue can ensure its chickens are treated well and lead a good life. There are no cages, no mills, no factories and no cruelty. I saw it all with my own eyes.

The Five Freedoms are:

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
  2. Freedom from Discomfort
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress.
Chickens enjoy sticking together, and also having stimulation in their environment.

The Perdue folks go out of their way to provide a stress-free environment. Hides, shelters, ramps and other climbing structures are offered inside and outside, and the chickens enjoy interacting with this environment.

Truth #7: “No Antibiotics Ever” is the Mantra

Perdue is a leader in the industry, and one of the reasons is the company’s strict adherence to their No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) pledge. People do not want to consume things laden with antibiotics, which in turn can affect humans negatively. Perdue simply does not use them – ever.

Farmers keep the barns in which they are raised extremely clean, dry and free of contagions. Thus, Perdue can ensure the chickens their farmers are raising have not been artificially pumped full of chemicals. So for Perdue, No Antibiotics Ever is a reality.

newly hatched chicks at Perdue Farms hatchery
Brand new Perdue Chicken hatchlings are ready to travel to nearby farms.

Truth #8: Process of Continual Improvement

Perdue is not perfect, and they know it. The company folks I met fully admitted this, and also that they are dedicated to getting better and better. The Perdue family members I met personally looked me straight in the eye when they affirmed this promise. I believe them.

What impressed me most about this company was their earnest desire to do the right thing. Yes, they are successful and big and making lots of money. But here’s the thing – I would rather spend my money with companies that are trying to do the right thing.

And that’s MY truth about Perdue Chicken. It’s just that simple.

man in cowboy hat lays back in seat of John Deere tractor, Salisbury, Maryland
I got into the farmer role with this tractor on a Maryland farm. No wisecracks please.

 

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The Truth About Perdue Chicken
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22 thoughts on “The Truth About Perdue Chicken

  1. I hope you took time to talk to local growers for Perdue while visiting the Eastern Shore to hear their version of reality. The fact is that, although chicken welfare is improving, the virtual wonderland of animal husbandry you saw (and are now promoting) is not the norm.

    1. Yes I did take that time, and met quite a few really wonderful growers that are very happy to be raising chickens in a humane and respectful environment with Perdue. I visited the farms and saw the chickens in their barns. These growers were friendly, open and consistent in their point of view about Perdue’s animal husbandry practices. I enjoyed meeting them and hearing their stories.

  2. Thank you so much for your great information and observations. I am a meat eater, sadly, but also an animal lover. In light of the current pandemic I want to stop eating meat from China or other foreign countries because of their inhuman treatment of these animals. So again thank you and I will now ONLY exclusively buy Perdue chicken.

    1. Thanks Lucy! I literally thought the same thing. Just roasted up some Perdue Farms drumsticks to feed the kids. Stay safe and well!

  3. Thanks for this story on Perdue chicken, I must say I am totally impress with the care they give these chickens. I will only buy this brand henceforth.

  4. Why have they gone down hill so terrible? So many feathers still on the chicken when purchased and rotten with the due date still 2 days away? Why put a big hunk of breast meat in with what was supposed to be thighs? I am not sure I believe they are not packed in China.

    1. Hi I can assure you that Perdue is family owned and out of Maryland, nothing Chinese connected at all. Nothing they sell in the US has ever left our borders or been imported from China. Perdue actually fully supports Country of Origin Labeling Laws (COOL) because they think it’s important for consumers to know where their products come from, from farm to transport to harvest to packing. As for the quality issues you mentioned, they stand by their commitment and you should contact customer service at Perdue to make that situation right – I have that directly from the Perdue Family.

  5. Thank you for this information. I had recently started only buying Perdue and it feels good to know I made the right choice.

  6. Have you read anything about the workers who are employed by Perdue in the Delaware processing plants? There’s a very informative and disturbing article in today’s Washington Post (7/6/20) regarding these workers’ dire situation. What is the very wealthy Perdue family doing to help the workers who have been made sick working in their plants besides giving their workers a dollar temporary wage increase? If they are truly the kind of people you describe, they would take care of the enormous medical bills their workers have and help their workers feed their families.

    1. Hello Anne – Actually Perdue Farms does not follow this practice, which at one time was used in the egg industry. Perdue is a “straight run” operation and the chickens they sell are a mix of males and females.

  7. Thank you for posting this. We’ve been buying Hallal chickens – Kosher is too expensive for us to afford, and we don’t trust Empire after the articles on issues with their procedures. We just bought Perdue roasters for the first time in years, after seeing they were “cage free” (yes, we know that’s usually BS). So I googled “are purdue cage free roaster chickens raised humanely” and your article came up near the top.

    I continued researching, and found this article. I’m hoping you might respond:

    https://sentientmedia.org/despite-perdues-high-welfare-standards-some-chickens-cant-survive-45-days/?utm_source=Sentient+Today&utm_campaign=b3adb5f1c8-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_08_06_07_57&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5b050108b9-b3adb5f1c8-67244713

    Again, thank you for your time.

    1. Hey – thank you for reaching out. The sentiment in that article is not reflective of what I have personally experienced in my time getting to work with Perdue. I have been to several farms that raise chickens for Perdue, and seen for myself first-hand the standards that the company sets to ensure proper raising of the animals. I have seen their leadership in animal care in action, and believe in their brand promise.

      After receiving your question, I did reach out to Perdue to see if they could provide any additional information. If it’s helpful, here is the company’s response to this article:

      “Perdue values the relationships we have with our family farmers, whose work is critical to the high-quality chicken our customers know and trust. That’s why we maintain an open, two-way dialogue with our growers, who provide insights that help our company, and their farms, improve together.

      Perdue’s goal is to provide high-quality, healthy and nutritious chicken to our customers that was raised according to our high standards for animal welfare and animal husbandry. These high standards include no-antibiotics-ever protocols, poultry care programs that exceed the norm for the U.S. poultry business, environmental stewardship and the expectation that farmers raising our chickens will be good neighbors.

      Birds that are well cared for will generally have a higher livability and that has a lot to do with the management style on the farm. As part of our animal care initiative, we have put a lot of emphasis on identifying birds that are in pain or can’t get to feed and water, and taking the proper measures. It is the right thing to do. If you would like to learn more about our commitment to animal care practices, we recommend visiting https://corporate.perduefarms.com/responsibility/animal-care/commitments/.”

      Thanks again for your question!

      1. Your standard answer is the same. “This is not what I have witnessed, Perdue is dedicated to blah blah blah…” You sound like the perfect corporate shill already. But it IS what others have witnessed. You have visited a FEW of Perdue’s farms, so those few farms are the only ones you can ACTUALLY speak about. How many have you NOT visited? 50? 100? Hundreds, perhaps? And since you are paid by Perdue, it wouldnt really be a good thing for you to speak out AGAINST your employer, would it?

        I will continue to buy my chicken from US Wellness Meats, which is a company that only sells meat from ACTUAL small family farms.

        1. Well it sounds like you clearly have an agenda, so whatever point of view I share will not convince you or change your mind. Thanks for commenting, and have a great day!

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