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But in the next pen over, smaller, leaner birds of the same age ran around, raising a ruckus as they climbed on haystacks, perched on roosts and gave themselves dirt baths.
“We’re going to have to come up with a sturdier water line,” said Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, a veterinarian and senior vice president of Perdue Farms, as he watched two of them swing the tube that supplies water to the pen.
The frisky birds and their more sedentary neighbors here in a barn on the Delmarva Peninsula are part of an experiment that could help change the way Americans eat, and think about, poultry.
Perdue Farms, one of the country’s largest chicken producers, has been raising what are known as slow-growth chickens side by side with the breeds that have made the company so successful. The new birds, a variety known as Redbro, take 25 percent longer, on average, to mature than their conventional cousins, and so are more expensive to raise.
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