Early in December, North Carolina chicken farmer J. Craig Watts blew the whistle on the poultry industry, revealing what it looks like inside the chicken breeding houses for Perdue Farms, the third largest poultry producer in the US. In the process, Watts revealed how meaningless terms like “natural,” “humanely raised,” “organic,” and “cage-free” are.
In a recent AMA on Reddit, Watts was asked this pointed question: “They’re just chickens,” user Warlizard asked. “What does it matter how they’re raised when we’re going to eat them anyways.”
Here’s what Watts had to say:
Well, it does matter. If you’ve been paying attention to the news. There’s a lot of issues with food born illness with poultry. These chickens come loaded with salmonella, e coli and staff [sic]. Even if you don’t care about welfare, they’re getting sick because of the ways they’re raised. And that everyone should care about … How you treat your animals reveals your true character.
In the AMA, Watts responded to accusations that his farm, which Compassion in World Farming depicted in a video, does not represent the majority of poultry farms.
“To that, I say check my record,” Watts said. “Check how I performed in the tournament system [how Perdue judges their farmers] … Or call Perdue and ask them. For the flock filmed in the video, I was THE top producer. Obviously they didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing. I’ve never been on any disciplinary program in 22 years. This was my first welfare audit in 22 years.”
Many farmers would love to speak out against the industry but are worried about their job security, according to Watts.
“I would say 80% would want to speak out. That’s conservative. I don’t know one farmer who is happy. And I know a lot. If there is one, I would love to talk them. I could use a little good news,” Watts wrote.
By the end of the AMA, many Redditors wondered how to improve the current poultry system. Watts says it all comes down to poultry companies becoming more transparent and farmers gaining more control over their farms. Watts went on to explain that in order to improve the welfare of chickens, producers must stop using chickens that are “genetically bred” to grow at absurd rates.
Change won’t come from governments or farmers by themselves, which have little incentive to reform, according to Watts.
“The only way is for the public to make [sic] apply the pressure,” wrote Watts.
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