NSAC's Blog

PRESS COMMENT: Poultry Industry Reforms Must Consider Farmer Welfare, Too

June 28, 2016


Contact: Reana Kovalcik, 202-547-5754, Rkovalcik@sustainableagriculture.net

Poultry Industry Reforms Must Consider Farmer Welfare, Too

In any conversation about chicken farming, there ought to be concern equally for the welfare of the chickens and for the farmers who raise them. We at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) welcome the recent news of proposed animal welfare upgrades from Perdue Foods, the nation’s fourth-largest poultry producer. We are also pleased to learn that Perdue will, at least in the “pilot phase”, not be passing the cost of these upgrades on to farmers.

Farmers naturally care for the animals they raise, they take pride in their work and want to deliver a quality product to the public. In the contract farming industry, however, corporate “integrators” hold all the decision-making power and often dictate upgrade requirements that can push farmers deep into debt. Chicken farms commonly cost more the $1 million to get up and running, a price many farmers can only undertake by mortgaging their homes and land. This kind of risk imbalance leaves contract farmers vulnerable and often forces them to accept unsafe or unfair working conditions.

While we support Perdue’s decision to review and improve its animal welfare practices, we believe the best way to ensure quality of life for both livestock and farmers is to support the forthcoming proposed rules to implement the Packers and Stockyards Act. We anticipate these rules will include a requirement that farmers not be coerced into barn upgrades, and also that they have a reasonable chance of recouping the cost of any upgrades they are encouraged to make by the integrator.

The rules soon to be proposed by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), would also ensure a safer, more fair, and more transparent poultry industry by guaranteeing contract farmers’ basic rights, like the right to speak out against unsafe, unfair, or unsanitary working conditions.

If Perdue wants to raise the standards of the contract poultry industry and stand out as a bonafide innovator in the field, they should embrace the GIPSA rules and encourage other integrators to follow their lead. We hope they will do just that, creating a system with fair farmer practices and high animal welfare standards. Until we have a humane contract farming system, we will never truly have a humane food system.

Categories: Press Releases

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