Perdue Farms announces it is investing more than $15 million at its Milford, Del. facility, the country's largest organic poultry plant, on a higher-welfare controlled atmospheric stunning (CAS) system plus a live-bird handling process that will be the first of its kind in the U.S. Perdue is the only major poultry company in the country to commit to converting 100 percent of its plants to CAS instead of electrical stunning, which eliminates the process of shackling conscious birds.

This move, celebrated by animal welfare advocates, has Perdue poised to meet the higher broiler welfare standards promised by nearly 70 food retailers and restaurant companies nationwide, the company said in a statement.

Most U.S. poultry plants use electricity, a method from the 1960s, to render animals insensible to pain before processing. Employees shackle live birds upside down while they're still conscious. With CAS, Perdue uses increasing levels of carbon dioxide to calm then sedate the chickens before bringing about an irreversible loss of consciousness prior to processing. Since birds are stunned before handling, no bird is upside-down while conscious. This improves poultry welfare – and creates a better working environment for employees.

"Since implementing the CAS system, we're seeing measurable poultry welfare improvements throughout the process, as well as improvements in product quality. Our technology uses both carbon dioxide and oxygen in the mix, which creates less stress on the birds as they go through the chambers," said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, Senior Vice President of Food Safety, Quality and Live Production. "The difference is night and day."

Perdue's Milford facility supplies 1.2 million organic and no-antibiotics-ever chickens per week for its consumer brands including PERDUE, PERDUE HARVESTLAND, COLEMAN ORGANIC, as well as its Foodservice Organic brands. Perdue will continue the gradual conversion of the rest of its harvest plants to Controlled Atmosphere Stunning, with the next installation planned for 2019.

In 2016, Perdue laid out an extensive program to advance animal care. These changes helped Perdue achieve the second highest level in the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, released February 22. Perdue Farms was recognized for making animal welfare integral to its business strategies, and placed among the top 15% of more than 100 global food companies. Perdue was one of only three U.S. poultry or meat companies to achieve Tier 2 or higher.

In the second phase of the CAS process, covered trucks will transport the birds in redesigned crates to a fully-enclosed, temperature-controlled, de-stressing area prior to processing called the "lairage" area. The transport crates are then transferred to the CAS system, so the birds stay calm and are never handled when conscious. This new process, the first of its kind in the U.S., will be fully operational in fall 2018.

Source: Perdue Farms