The abusive practices of the chicken cartel

On his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver exposes how the chicken industry is dominated by four major companies (Pilgrim’s, Tyson, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms) that use their monopoly power to create hellish conditions, not just for chickens of which we are all aware, but also for the chicken farmers who work for them on contracts that are incredibly exploitative. And Congress protects these abusive companies.

There are a couple of documentaries that deal with these so-called contract farms where the companies trick farmers into signing these harsh contracts by promising them much more than they deliver.

One is Under Contract: Farmers in the Fine Print (2015) for which the trailer is below.

Another is shorter and is called The Sharecroppers (2010) by Jonathan Shepard and the full 18-minute film can be seen below. The stories of the farmers are tragic.

Incidentally, there are some networks of smaller family farms where the chickens are pasture raised and you can buy eggs from them. One such group is called Nest Fresh and one of our local supermarket chains Heinen’s carries them. You can check if there is one in your area.

These eggs are slightly more expensive but those of us who can afford it must be willing to pay more for goods that provide the people who make them with a decent living and not support companies that squeeze people for profits.


  1. Seeker2 says

    Another option, if at all possible, is to find a small farmer who raises chickens in a humane way. There are some out there! Ask to visit the farm. Is it (reasonably) clean? Are the chickens running around outside? What are they eating? (grass and random bugs they find = okay, leftover vegetables & fruit = okay)

  2. lorn says

    Chickens are pretty easy to raise if you have a bit of land if the local zoning and rules allow. There are issues like noise and poop but all the issues have work-arounds. Like bringing in a rooster from outside so there isn’t any crowing. It isn’t for everyone but a whole lot of people who never though of raising animals for food, meat and eggs, have found the process practical. In addition to the eggs and meat, fresher tastes better, a couple of chickens can make a major dent in insect populations.

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