As the company slogan says, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” and Frank Perdue prides itself on the efficiency with which it processes all those chickens, slaughters them, and prepares them for the marketplace in a matter of hours.
If a chicken passes the examination for quality, it is lucky enough to be caught by hand from a crate and hung by its feet on processing shackles, side by side with hundreds of others.
The shackles, attached to a conveyor chain, consist of metal loops several inches apart into which the legs are hooked. Soothed first by red lights, the chickens pass through a tank of water and saline solution containing an electrical charge that stuns them. The conveyor then advances to a rotating blade that slices their necks, killing them instantaneously.
Plucking is accomplished by machines called pickers: after immersion in very hot water to loosen the feathers, the chickens are passed between a series of rotating metal drums covered with short rubber fingers that pull off the feathers.
An assembly line further prepares the chickens for market, and they are finally shipped off to a Perdue distributor or chain warehouse in a carton that reads: “Any squawks? Call . . .”