By shining a light on the issues of transparency, working conditions, animal welfare, and environmental impacts, we can empower farmers, protect workers, and improve the welfare of animals.


Good morning from Rhode Island, USA


The American food industry relies heavily on poultry farming, which plays a significant role in meeting the demand for meat products. Chicken and turkey are two of the most commonly consumed types of poultry in the United States. They are frequently found on dinner tables across the nation. However, despite the glossy packaging and enticing commercials that portray the industry positively, there is a darker side to poultry farming that the public needs to be made aware of.

Some American poultry companies employ questionable practices that undermine transparency, animal welfare, and food safety. Certain farming practices are associated with the confinement of birds in overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, the provision of substandard feed and water, and the use of antibiotics to promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, some companies employ misleading labeling practices, impeding consumers’ ability to make informed decisions about their products. The result is a complex challenge for stakeholders seeking to ensure animal welfare and public health.

In this article, I delve into the various aspects of the poultry industry that are often obscured from public view. By exposing and shedding light on the food industry’s questionable practices, I hope to inspire a movement toward greater transparency and accountability. My ultimate aim is to empower consumers to make well-informed choices about the food they consume.
  1. Contract Farming: A System Rigged Against Farmers

The contract farming system is one of the most controversial aspects of poultry farming in the US. Under this arrangement, farmers receive birds, feed, and other essential resources from poultry companies. They are responsible for raising the birds to marketable size. However, the power dynamics heavily favor the poultry companies, which dictate the terms of the contract, leaving farmers with little room to negotiate. This lack of bargaining power can trap farmers in a cycle of debt and financial dependence. To make matters worse, companies often require farmers to invest in costly equipment and infrastructure, leading to long-term contracts and binding farmers to debt while at the mercy of the poultry corporations.

  1. Vertical Integration: A Stranglehold on Competition

The poultry industry often engages in a secretive practice known as vertical integration. Large corporations control every aspect of the poultry production process, from breeding to distribution. Sadly, this form of monopoly-like control over the supply chain leaves smaller farmers with limited options to sell their poultry and disadvantages them. Moreover, these big corporations can leverage their power to drive down prices for the poultry they purchase from contract farmers, leaving the small-scale farmers struggling to make ends meet. The lack of transparency in this process allows corporations to manipulate the system to their advantage.

  1. Poor Working Conditions for Farm Laborers

Putting chicken on our plates involves the hard work of many laborers who work in poultry farms. These laborers are often low-wage earners, with some of them being immigrants or people with limited employment opportunities. Their working conditions are harsh, including long hours, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and a lack of job security.

Poor working conditions in poultry farms have been a long-standing problem, with workers facing various difficulties. Some problems include using hazardous chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine, which can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation. Moreover, working extended hours and lack of job security can significantly impact workers’ physical and mental well-being.

There have also been reports of worker exploitation and wage theft on some poultry farms. Some workers have reported being underpaid or unpaid for their work. Others have reported being forced to work overtime without pay, and some have alleged they were not allowed to take breaks during their workday.

Many workers fear speaking out about their poor working conditions due to the fear of retaliation. This fear only adds to the veil of secrecy surrounding the issue, making it challenging to address the existing problems. We must recognize the difficulties that workers in poultry farms face and work towards creating a safe and fair working environment for all workers.

  1. Animal Welfare Concerns

The poultry industry has come under scrutiny for its treatment of animals. One of the major concerns is the need for more transparency in how chickens are raised and treated. Many poultry companies raise chickens in overcrowded conditions, deprived of natural light and fresh air. This can lead to health problems, such as respiratory issues and weakened immune systems.

Furthermore, the overuse of antibiotics in the poultry industry is another primary concern. One of the most pressing challenges in healthcare is the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a grave threat to our ability to combat infections. As bacteria mutate and evolve, our current antibiotics become less effective, leaving us vulnerable to potentially life-threatening illnesses. We must take action to address this issue by investing in the development of new and more powerful antibiotics and by using current antibiotics responsibly and judiciously.

If we don’t act immediately, it could have severe consequences for our overall health and well-being. To tackle this issue, we need to implement strategies that promote responsible use of antibiotics and invest in developing new antibiotics and alternative treatments. Currently, consumers need more transparency in the treatment of animals in the poultry industry. This makes it difficult for them to make informed choices about the poultry products they purchase. The industry must enhance transparency and provide customers with more detailed information regarding the conditions in which the chickens are raised and the use of antibiotics. By receiving more comprehensive information, consumers can enhance their decision-making abilities and establish greater trust in the poultry industry.

  1. Environmental Impacts

Industrial poultry farming has severe and far-reaching consequences on the environment, which are often concealed from consumers. These operations produce massive amounts of waste in the form of manure, leading to water contamination and air pollution. The extensive utilization of resources like water and feed to raise poultry on an industrial scale leaves a significant ecological footprint that cannot be ignored. The lack of transparency in disclosing these environmental impacts is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately. Consumers must be fully aware of the ecological toll their poultry consumption inflicts on our planet.

  1. Food Safety Concerns

Ensuring transparency in food safety is crucial, but it is an area that often needs improvement. Poultry products have been linked to foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and campylobacter outbreaks. The success of poultry processing in plants hinges on maintaining impeccable hygiene and safety standards. These critical aspects must be addressed to avoid contamination, product spoilage, and illness. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize safety and adhere to proper protocols. Remember, only by doing so can we guarantee superior quality products that meet industry standards and exceed customer expectations. With the rapid and extensive nature of poultry processing, ensuring these standards are met becomes even more challenging. Therefore, it is essential to take all necessary measures to maintain a clean and safe processing environment to protect consumers and workers. Moreover, using antimicrobial agents in poultry production, often for growth promotion and disease prevention, raises concerns about developing antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Final Thoughts

The American poultry industry is an essential contributor to our nation’s food supply, but it faces significant challenges. By shining a light on the issues of transparency, working conditions, animal welfare, and environmental impacts, we can empower farmers, protect workers, and improve the welfare of animals.
With the help of consumers, regulators, and advocacy groups, we can create a more equitable, ethical, and sustainable future for American agriculture and food production. Let us work together to bring about this positive change.
Flavors + Knowledge Magazine, USA

There is a constant, recognizable thread in Walter Potenza's career to elevate the level of Italian culinary culture in the United States. Besides his unquestionable culinary talent and his winning business perspective, Chef Walter has been a relentless educator with passion and knowledge who contributes to defeating stereotypes. His life, career, and values are a model, an example to follow, by any Italian gastronomy chef working outside Italy. A native of Mosciano Sant' Angelo in Abruzzo, Italy, is known as one of the most passionate and accomplished practitioners of traditional and historical Italian cooking in the nation. His fields of expertise include Terracotta Cookery, Historical Cookery from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, the Cuisines of the Sephardim Italian Jewish Heritage, and the Mediterranean 21 Health & Wellness, with major emphasis on Diabetes, Celiac and the Cuisines of the 21 countries present in the MED basin.

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