Major changes are afoot when it comes to how the poultry industry conducts its business. Over the last several months, some of the industry’s largest customers — companies like Burger King, Subway and more — have demanded that their chicken suppliers overhaul the way they breed, house and slaughter animals.

As it turns out, these changes could not come soon enough.

Today, The Humane Society of the United States released details of a multi-state undercover investigation into Pilgrim’s Pride — the country’s second-largest chicken producer, and one of the few large publicly held poultry providers.

From a farm owner in Georgia beating animals with a metal rod to chickens in a Texas slaughterhouse being viciously punched during their final moments, the abuse documented was nothing less than horrifying.

While the actions of these bad apples are clearly unacceptable, it’s the system that’s rotten.

In Georgia, our undercover investigator spent just four days documenting what goes on at Plainview Farm — a Pilgrim’s Pride contractor. In addition to the facility’s owner beating animals, birds were found dead and crippled, with those alive unable to reach food or water or even move more than a few steps.

This problem is pervasive throughout the poultry sector, where animals’ well-being has been subjugated beneath companies’ desire to produce freakishly large birds in as little time as possible. The way chickens grow today is akin to a 2-month-old human baby weighing a whopping 660 pounds. And because chickens are slaughtered at only a few weeks old, their bodies are still young and fragile while all those pounds are being packed on. As a result, their legs often give out. They can barely move. They suffer foot and joint problems. They have heart attacks, and their lungs fail.

These are the types of problems documented in Georgia that are common industrywide — and it doesn’t end once the birds leave the farm.

In Texas, our undercover investigation of a Pilgrim’s Pride-owned slaughterhouse documented birds being punched during their final moments and abused in other ways. Because these birds’ legs are so…