When it comes to consumers’ food choices throughout the United States, there is one consistent theme, and Perdue’s Andrea Staub knows what it is.
“More than 82 percent of U.S. households regularly purchase some organic products,” says Staub, Perdue’s senior vice president of corporate communications. “We’re listening to consumers, and to give consumers access to the choices they want — such as organic — we need to increase production and distribution.”
Throughout Delaware, Perdue is using a variety of methods to make its products healthier and more attractive to customers. The results have been impressive, and the company is committed to continuing to find ways that will keep that improvement going.
One example is Perdue’s plant in Milford, Del., which is the largest certified USDA organic plant in the United States. Creating and implementing the strategy necessary to deserve that distinction wasn’t easy.
“USDA-certified organic has very specific requirements,” Staub says. “Every step along the way — from the farms that raise the grains for feed through the farms that raise the chickens and the plants that harvest the chickens — has to be independently certified.”
Perdue has also eliminated antibiotics in its chicken products. As scientists and the general public learned more about the detrimental effects of the practice and expressed dissatisfaction, Perdue listened. The result is a much healthier poultry product.
“We put a focus on improving our animal care because that’s what consumers are looking for, and we learned how to raise chickens without relying on antibiotics,” Staub says.
It’s not just about the finished product. Perdue has sought to make the entire process healthier and better for the environment. At its AgriSoil composting facility in Blades, Del., the company has implemented a new recycling system that allows it to handle poultry litter more efficiently. Thanks to a $12 million investment, the plant will produce compost that is rich in nutrients and has a wide range of applications as a soil amendment.
By the end of 2017, Perdue hopes to double the byproduct material it recycles, bringing the total to 80,000 tons.
It’s clear that Perdue’s embrace of technology and commitment to cleaner production and recycling is paying big dividends. Staub expects future endeavors to be just as effective.
“We need to listen to [consumers], answering their questions and addressing their concerns — which can mean changing the way we do things,” she says. “And we need to show them that a big company can do that, and do it in a way that can be trusted.”