Originally published February 21 2015
Perdue blames its chicken farmers for inhumane conditions, loses customers in the process
by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
(NaturalNews) Over 8 billion chickens are raised for meat annually in the United States. Some are raised inhumanely in factory farms, providing cheap meat. Other chicken producers pledge to raise chickens in free-range, humane conditions. At the supermarket, the labels on the bags of chicken may read "natural" or "cage-free," but these labels aren't telling the whole story, in the case of one company.
The third largest chicken producer in the country, Perdue, claims to be one of the most ethical chicken producers in the US, with the USDA verifying that their chickens are "humanely raised."
Perdue states on their website, "To give consumers the assurance they are looking for about how the chicken they are eating was raised, fed and processed, we worked directly with the USDA to create verification programs to address these areas."
"The result? Perdue became the first poultry company to receive the USDA Process Verified Seal."
Whistleblower exposes Perdue's disguised inhumane chicken-raising operationAccording to one farmer and whistleblower, Mr. Craig Watts, all the fancy USDA verification and "natural" labeling is just for show. Watts is a contractor for Perdue farms and works up close with the chickens Perdue sends to him. A 22-year-old veteran in the business, Watts knew how horrible the conditions were for the birds. He decided to blow the whistle on Perdue. He called in a notable farm animal welfare organization, Compassion in World Farming, to help shine a light on the conditions.
What they documented in this video changed everything, pointing out the conditions.
Perdue's "humanely raised" birds are bred to get so big so fast that they can hardly stand on their own two feet in the last week of their lives. The birds are forced to reach market weight in just 42 days compared to the slow natural growth of traditional breeds, which takes 80 - 120 days. The video captures the birds being hardly able to breathe because of this.
These supposedly free-range animals are also contained in overcrowded warehouses that deprive the birds of natural light and fresh air. These large sheds hold over 30,000 birds in one place. The tiny amount of space per bird makes their legs weak due to lack of exercise. Many can't even walk and suffer because of this.
The birds are trapped in place their entire life on a bed of feces-ridden litter that is rarely even changed between flocks. At the end of the market cycle, the birds can be seen panting, immobilized in their own waste.
Perdue blames the whistle blower and all their contractors for the inhumane conditions, loses business in the processAmericans despise factory-farmed chickens, but what they really don't want is a government safety agency like the USDA putting their stamp of approval on the operation and calling it "humane" and "cage-free."
When whistleblower Watts turned his video footage over to the Center for Food Integrity for official review, he received backlash.
CFI re-framed the video and blamed Watts for poor management. The mainstream media followed the narrative, taking the blame off Perdue farms and the USDA and instead blamed the whistleblower and the other farmers.
What's interesting is that Watts has been in the business for 22 years and has even been awarded by Perdue as a top producer.
It looked like Perdue was going to be let off the hook and no changes were going to be made to their chicken production process or deceptive labeling practices.
That's when one consumer posted this on Perdue's Facebook page: "Nice retaliation against a farmer who wants his unhealthy chickens to see the light of day. I will never buy Perdue again."
The comment stirred Perdue management. Within weeks, Watts was visited six times by Perdue management. Over 22,000 emails were sent from concerned consumers to supermarkets across the country asking for better treatment of chickens.
As Perdue lost thousands of customers, they learned one thing: Trying to silence farmers who want to reform the industry will only backfire. Blaming and suppressing farmers who want to do better for America is no way to win American's trust.
Perdue and Kroger settled lawsuits in October 2014, agreeing to remove the "humanely raised" labels from their Harvestland and Simple Truth chicken brands.
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