We are a land run by corporations. Our politicians are just talking heads for the rich corporate type that buy their votes in Congress and now I learn that our food companies are robbing our farmers and holding them hostage by corporate rules in their shady deals that are loosely regulated by our government agencies. When will people just do what is right to other people and forget about the ultimate profit?
Americans love to eat chicken. It has always been plentiful, easy to cook and reasonably priced in the supermarket. With the high price of beef lately our consumption of chicken has doubled. In the last 25 years the chicken industry has doubled its production and the head count went from 80 million chickens per week to now about 160 million chickens per week consumed. We have heard the stories of the poor living conditions that chickens have to endure before they are ultimately sent to slaughter anyway but that is not because of greedy farmers. It is the farmer that is just a puppet for the greedy corporate companies who do whatever the hell they want for the ultimate profit for themselves.
Poultry companies have you believing that chicken farmers are prosperous businessmen but that is so untrue. In fact, many farmers are in ill health and are struggling with their bills daily. Many studies have shown that farmers whose sole source of income was chicken farming were below or near the poverty line in income. How could the people who make the meat we eat barely be making a living of their own? This is all thanks to a system called contract farming. The companies bring baby chicks to an independent farm and pick them up about a month later when they are fully grown. 97% per cent of our chickens are raised this way. The companies also own the feed for the chickens. The farmer owns the properties, the equipment and the labor. Everything around the business is owned by the farmer.
So, you, the farmer, own the property and the equipment and we the corporations own the chickens. That crappy deal essentially means that the farmer owns everything that costs money and the corporations own everything that makes money. The chickens go to market for cash. The equipment just gets old and needs to be replaced at the farmers cost. Farmers go into a great deal of debt just to build the chicken houses and things built to the corporate specifications. From the moment you sign that contract, the chicken companies have a lot of leverage over you. The farmers don’t even want to raise chickens the way the companies want them to. As it is the entire industry is dominated by only 4 companies. They are Pilgrims, Sanderson Farms, Tyson and Perdue.
These companies instruct the farmers NOT to give the chickens any natural sunlight or even let them roam freely in the grass because that will waste time. They only want the chickens to be able to sit or stand eat and drink for optimal plumpness and less muscles. The farmers want to get rid of the walls and to at least let in fresh air and sunlight that is better for their health too. As fast as the farmers can pay down their debt, the companies have permission to pile more debt on by demanding that they make expensive upgrades to the equipment. According to Christopher Leonard the author of the book called The Meat Racket, The company can take say 100 farmers in an area, ranks them among one another, those at the top will get a bonus and those at the bottom will get a financial reduction. So now the farmers are competing against each other. Those who can somehow produce fatter chickens using less feed get rewarded.
Why should a farmer get paid almost nothing for something they can’t control? Being labeled a bad grower is causing suicides among poor farmers. If the farmers complain the companies will cut back on the amount of chicks they provide and on the quality of the chicks so it is impossible to get a good rating. A few years ago Obama tried to address these problems with new regulations but farmers were afraid to show up. Since then rules have been written to protect the farmer but they have not been enforced because a rider has been slipped into the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that states,” none of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to write, prepare, or publish a final rule.” So this forbids the USDA to enforce the rules.
A representative last year attempted to pass an Amendment to simply give farmers protection to speak out without retaliation. She asked for equal standing in the courts and for farmers and companies to have equal standing in exercising their right to free speech. Immediately after they voted and shut her down. It makes a real depressing ending to this story. So what can you do? You know that you will not stop eating chicken but what you can do is look closely at your elected officials and find out if they are getting big contributions to their campaigns from the chicken companies. Those politicians have been bought and sold and packaged to be against our poor farmers.