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Chicken Industry Concentration Hurts Farmers

Meatpackers and some Republicans pushed back last week against the sense shared by President Biden and folks buying groceries that the Big Meat monopolists, just like our other corporate overlords, are rigging the market to inflate their profits.

The CEOs and corporatist donation-takers are blowing smoke. Check out the chicken industry, where market concentration impoverishes farmers:

The National Chicken Council—the trade association for chicken companies—reported that farmers’ pay per pound of chicken decreased 3 percent between 1990 and 2020 when adjusted for inflation. Chicken farmers we’ve talked to say they gross about 24 cents for each four-pound bird they raise. That paltry amount has to cover labor, maintenance, fuel, electricity, and other overhead costs. Several contract chicken farmers have gone so far as to sue large poultry producers citing unfair, predatory, and anti-competitive behavior. Last year, Tyson and Perdue agreed to a $35 million settlement to a lawsuit alleging that the companies have pushed farmers into debt and locked in their compensation at unprofitably low rates.

So, what’s really going on here? It boils down to the concentration of the chicken industry and its reliance on the contract farming model. Just four companies—JBS (Pilgrim’s Pride), Tyson, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms—comprise more than half the U.S. chicken market. This concentration of power has allowed the companies to squeeze both the farmers and consumers to maximize their profits [Patti Anderson and Mike Weaver, “Monopolies Are Giving Chicken Farmers a Raw Deal. We’re Urging States to Act,” Civil Eats, 2022.05.02].

Maybe it’s time for the chicken man to go on strike.


  1. jad 2022-05-02

    Same storyline in every industry. A few companies control everything therefore there’s no real competition. Capitalism doesn’t work unless there’s true competition.

  2. P. Aitch 2022-05-02

    – Fresh chicken and eggs
    – We are a certified organic family farm in Southeast SD raising poultry for fresh organic eggs and pasture raised chicken, forage, small grains, berries, and vegetables.
    – Pasture-raised chickens are fed a wholesome balanced vegetarian diet ration supplemented with forage on our poultry farm.

    Certified Organic to the USDA National Organic Program
    We hold to the highest standards of organic agriculture production. We have been under the strict oversight of Midwest Organic Services

  3. John 2022-05-02

    I’ve written before on these pages — it’s long past the time to break-up the monopolies. When corporations are raising prices more than inflation, when corporate profits are a record highs — it’s long past the time to break-up the monopolies to inject competition into the economy.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-02

    Mr. Aitch…very pleased to hear about Prairie Sun chickens and eggs…the deterioration of quality in eggs and chicken over the last ten years has been alarming. Switched to having an egg lady and buying Hutterite chickens…commercial poultry is terrible and probably terrible for you. Glad your organic chickens and eggs are on the market.

  5. Mark Anderson 2022-05-02

    Farmers used to vote Democratic, maybe they will vote that way again.

  6. Frank J Kloucek 2022-05-02

    Senator Paul Muegge of Oklahoma [who won the JFK profile in courage award for his stand on cafos] myself and a whole host of midwestern legislators tried to get a contract livestock growers bill of rights passed in our respective states. The contract swine and poultry growers are very much in need of common-sense protection. It needs to happen as the abuses by those in control of our food system continue to abuse the growers and consumers on both ends of the food spectrum.
    Retired 22 year legislator Frank Kloucek Scotland South Dakota.
    Already in South Dakota we see swine contract producers giving up their so called “lucrative contracts” and are now just getting the manure…..

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