Agriculture Roundup: What’s Going On In America’s Poultry Industry?
What the cluck? It really hasn’t been a great spring for poultry farmers in the US. Puns aside, there are some serious things happening in America’s poultry industry right now. We want to keep you informed about the latest news in agriculture. Healthy food means good health for you.
A recent epidemic of avian flu has already wiped out close to 40 million chickens, causing egg prices to rise by up to 85%.
The majority of the dead birds are egg laying hens - 32 million of them - which is causing a huge shortage across the nation, affecting Minnesota and Iowa farmers the most. The epidemic is already twice as bad as the one that hit the industry in the 1980s.
From the looks of it, this avian flu epidemic has spread most widely in the country’s largest poultry operations, such as Hormel, leading us to wonder if it will spread to smaller, family run farms next, possibly exacerbating the problem; or are the chickens raised on a smaller scale inherently healthier because their immune systems aren’t ravaged by the much-documented mistreatment they undergo in factory farms? Independent farmer, Joel Salatin of Virginia’s Polyface Farm, has some interesting thoughts on the subject posted on his Facebook page.
Is The Industry Failing Farmers?
As expressed in a recent expose on John Oliver’s HBO show, Last Week Tonight, chicken farmers have more to worry about than just the health of their birds. Many chicken farmers are unable to make a living, which is particularly surprising given how popular chicken meat is in the American diet.
In his piece, Oliver explores the relationship between companies that provide chicken farmers with everything from the birds themselves to the equipment used to raise them. The prohibitive cost leads some farmers to bankruptcy. These companies also dictate the guidelines that regulate how chickens should be raised (machinery, approved equipment) and sold, creating extra competition between neighboring farmers. What’s more, some farmers are punished for speaking their minds about what they see as unfair business practices and are sold poor-quality livestock as a penalty, meaning less income and even more dire financial straits. All legislative moves towards a solution have been blocked by the chicken industry itself, so suggests Mr. Oliver.
What can be done to change a system that is clearly standing in the way of farmers’ livelihoods? Contact your local representatives.
Tell us your thoughts in the comments!