How important is it to know where your food comes from? We’re all well aware of the horrors of big agricultural businesses that don’t care about the welfare of their animals so long as they’re making a profit. Dirty living conditions, insufficient food and water, disease and inhumane treatment are all things that are stereotypically associated with large-scale farming companies, particularly in the poultry world.
On a recent trip to Salisbury, Maryland I had the unique opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, especially for a city girl like myself. For three days I toured the Perdue Farms chicken farms and facilities asking all the questions and learning about their entire chicken-raising operation, from hatchery to harvest. I was shocked by the company’s commitment to transparency, animal welfare, and strong farmer relationships.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the trip and why I can safely—and confidently—say that this is a brand that I stand by when it comes to my chicken!
Animal care is #1
Perdue Farms chicken raising process, which includes all phases of the supply chain, breeder and hatchery operations, life on the farm, nutrition, transportation and harvesting, is monitored by a USDA approved process verification program for poultry care. Not only does the company use strict parameters to ensure the wellbeing of their chickens, but even has a separate audited program in which it works in collaboration with animal rights groups and the National Chicken Council to make 100% sure everything is in line with keeping the chickens happy and healthy!
They don’t use cages or crates
We had the chance to visit chicken farms where chicken arrive as just-hatched chicks and grow into their chicken house. One chicken farm had about 30k chickens and though it may appear crowded, they actually have a lot of room to roam and access to all the feed and water they need without competition. Not to mention it smelled like a chicken house should. No whiffs of feces or foul unidentified smells. They also have windows, natural light pouring in and access to a huge outdoor space to roam!
They don’t use growth-promoting drugs
No grotesquely large chickens here!
They don’t use ANY antibiotics
Neither human nor animal antibiotics are used on these chickens. Perdue was the trailblazer in setting the standard for no antibiotics-ever chickens. Instead, they use natural supplements like oregano and thyme to keep their birds healthy.
They feed their chickens an all-vegetarian diet
Did you know a lot of chicken farms actually FEED their chickens animal and chicken by-products?! Then expect you to buy them and eat these cannibalistic chickens! How awful, right??
A moment to appreciate how adorable these chicks are…
How incredibly cute are these baby chicks at the hatchery?? The entire process from the moment the eggs are laid is both meticulously monitored and fascinating!
Research is important to Perdue Farms
The company is constantly researching and developing ways to better the lives of their chickens. We visited this particular farm where groups of chickens were each food color-dyed in order to be kept track of and researched. One of the things they’re researching is how to entice their chickens to roam outside more.
Another interesting fact is that Perdue is financially assisting its farmers to upgrade their chicken houses with more windows. The company is all about increasing the quality of life of their birds and their actions prove that.
It’s a big company made up of family-ran farms
Another surprising thing? The fact that Perdue Farms, a multi-billion dollar company, is actually run by small family farms. I had the pleasure of chatting one-on-one with some of these amazing people who each talked about the positive relationship they have with the company. According to the below mother-son duo, Perdue helps their farmers throughout the chicken-raising process with a sharp focus on quality, support and facilitating an environment where the chickens and farmers thrive.
Though they admit working with Perdue requires more effort than with other companies thanks to Perdue’s high standards, it’s all worth it because at the forefront of each Perdue-farmer relationship is attentiveness, animal welfare, and again, producing the highest quality product.
Fast fact: no farms Perdue works with operates more than an average of 3.5 chicken houses!
Meeting the family
Lastly, the Perdue Family itself is so down to earth! On one of our last nights in Maryland, Jim and Jan Perdue hosted us at their home where I had the honor of sitting with them! We chatted about my past life as a pro tennis player, art (one of Jan’s passions), our families, my writing career and everything in between.
Post-dinner Jan even came out to the fire pit with a basket full of s’mores to continue the fantastic evening under the stars. Chris Perdue, their son, even took a bunch of us to the airport (after spending most of the week with us answering every question we threw at him—at which he answered each honestly and openly!).
I’m super excited to be partnering with them and can’t wait to share everything I learn with you all!
Have any questions about Perdue Farm’s chicken farming? Ask away in the comments below!