NC chicken farmer fights Perdue on treatment of animals

‘There’s a lot of flaws in the system … this stuff is not as advertised’

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service-NC

* Video – see what Watts is talking about

FAIRMONT — It’s a real life case of David versus Goliath.

A North Carolina chicken farmer is speaking out against the practices of one of the country’s largest poultry producers – Perdue Farms.

Photo courtesy: Compassion in World Farming Farmer Craig Watts and Leah Garces with the group Compassion in World Farming survey Watts' chickens he raises as a contractor for Perdue Farms.

Photo courtesy: Compassion in World Farming
Farmer Craig Watts and Leah Garces with the group Compassion in World Farming survey Watts’ chickens he raises as a contractor for Perdue Farms.

Earlier this month, farmer Craig Watts, of Fairmont, released a video that was shot with the help of the group Compassion in World Farming. The video shows chickens living in cramped, dark quarters, many of them with raw bellies, unable to walk. Watts says the animal suffering comes as a result of the guidelines that he says Perdue asks him to follow.

“What I was seeing was all I knew,” he says. “What we started seeing was chicks coming in just in awful conditions. Bacteria, weak chicks, you name it. I don’t care who you are it gets to you after a while. ”

In a statement on Watts’ allegations, Perdue says the “conditions shown in this farmer’s poultry house do not reflect Perdue’s standards for how our chickens are raised.”

On Dec. 5, the same day Watts released the video, Perdue conducted an inspection of his farm — the first one in more than 20 years.

Leah Garces, USA director for Compassion in World Farming, says Watts is simply taking a stand against a system that needs to be changed.

“There’s something not right with this system,” she insists. “There is something not right when you cram 30,000 birds into a warehouse that’s dimly lit. There is no fresh air and no natural light. ”

Perdue is now conducting an audit of Watts’ farm. The farmer says he’d like to continue on as a contractor for the company, which has annual sales of $6 billion, because it will be easier to instigate change within the system.

“If I don’t get axed, then we’re going to do things like they ought to be done,” he says. “I know what grandma’s chicken coop looks like.

“Well, that’s what these guys are selling. Well, what the reality is is that basically I’ve got an ammunition shed down there for the chickens.”

North Carolina has a so-called ag-gag law in place, which offers protection to farm owners from whistleblower activists. Since Watts owns his farm, how the law impacts his case is unclear.

In October, Perdue announced it would remove stickers from packaging on some of its meat saying it was humanely raised.

Filed in: Business, Farm & Ag, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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