In this essay, we analyze Perdue’s animal welfare campaign from 2016 to 2020 to isolate how demands for transparency are mediated and subverted by Perdue’s public facing rhetoric. Though Perdue’s annual releases and commitments to change nominally constitute a victory for animal welfare advocates, the company’s campaign enacts transparency as a sort of publicity for the company that belies marginal gains for the lives of chickens and may ultimately result in increased meat consumption. In providing trackable metrics, offering paternalistic justifications for their treatments of chickens, and through strategic omissions of language and visuals, Perdue satisfies demands for transparency without committing the company to meaningful changes. In that way, transparency-publicity becomes a performative end that allows the company to continue its behavior and give consumers cover for increased meat consumption. We conclude with the implications of this co-optation.
Original Publication Information
Coker, C. R. & Coker, R. A. "On (Not) Seeing the Chicken: Perdue, Animal Welfare, and the Failure of Transparency." 2022. Communication Quarterly 70(10): 161-180.
Coker, Calvin and Coker, Rachel A., "On (not) seeing the chicken: Perdue, animal welfare, and the failure of transparency" (2022). Faculty Scholarship. 766.