In 1992, Craig Watts got into growing chickens for Perdue Farms because he was told he could turn a good profit. Instead, he found himself hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and unable to bargain for better working conditions because Perdue was the only game in town. Things seemed hopeless, until, in 2010, President Obama’s Department of Justice announced that they were going to look into the relationship between big poultry companies and their growers.
In this episode, reporter Leah Douglas tells us how farmers like Craig fought to change the balance of power in chicken growing a decade ago — and what has happened since.
Further listening and reading:
- In his book The Meat Racket, Christopher Leonard outlines the problems with contract poultry growing in much more depth, and goes into the history of the practice.
- Leah Douglas and Christopher Leonard also did a recent, in-depth investigation into problems with the US chicken industry’s treatment of farmers.
- You can watch the Department of Justice public workshops for yourself, or read transcripts, all available here.
- The National Chicken Council has compiled an FAQ that pushes back on claims that poultry growers have problems.
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This podcast is made possible thanks to support from Animal Charity Evaluators. They research and promote the most effective ways to help animals.
Byrd Pinkerton (@byrdala
), podcast producer, Vox
Leah Douglas (@leahjdouglas
), reporter, Food and Environment Reporting Network
Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt
), senior correspondent, Vox
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