Sometimes, when consumers speak loudly enough, companies will make changes. It's been happening frequently in the food industry, with some companies like Campbell's promising to label GMOs or Kraft removing artificial dyes from kid-favorite macaroni and cheese.
Another company just announced it's making some changes due to consumer feedback, particularly feedback from millennials, who have edged out the baby boomers in terms of buying power. Perdue has made a commitment to animal care — specifically chickens. Chairman Jim Perdue admits it's because they've heard from consumers, especially millennials, that people "want to know more about their food, how their animals were cared for," according to CBS News.
This seems like a win for consumer voices being heard, and a smaller win for the chickens. Their conditions will improve, but let's face it: Chickens raised on this mass of a scale won't live their lives wandering freely around a farm and in the end, they still become dinner.
Perdue will now follow a global standard for animal husbandry known as the Five Freedoms, created by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
There are some important changes being made here. Perdue will be giving birds more space, more resting time (when lights are out), working towards doubling the rate of play/activity time for the chickens, implementing pay incentives for growers to handle chickens correctly and more. These changes will come at no additional cost to consumers.
There will be many consumers who will see these changes as insufficient. Perdue could do more — or even a lot less, as in not raising chickens for food at all. The good news here is that Perdue is listening to the consumers' voices, particularly when those voices are connected to a pocketbook — which millennials definitely are. It's a lesson to the rest of us, who also have dollars to spend, that we should keep using our voices when we agree (or disagree) with a practice in the food industry.
My usual thought when a company makes positive changes based on consumer desire is that we should give the company credit for listening and changing. And then we should ask them, "OK, what's next?"