Why It's Time to Challenge the Chicken Industry

Darn. I missed the official celebration in September — bet you did too. But even if we’re a little late, we still have time to mark National Chicken Month. Websites are giving us myriad ways to observe the bird. Eat more chicken! Do the chicken dance! Read Chicken Little!


To be sure, the chicken is a noble bird and has fed many a pastor on Sunday. But all this celebrating got me to thinking. When we’re talkin’ chicken, who pays and who profits?

Looking at the bottom line, KFC definitely rules the roost, with over $4.5 billion in annual sales just in our own country. Chick-Fil-A, Popeyes, and Church’s round out the top tier. So it’s pretty easy to see who profits.And who pays? Customers, of course, but also workers. KFC pays just a few cents over the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. KFC workers joined others in the fast food industry to stage a series of one-day strikes over wages this summer, and the company recently settled a class action lawsuit brought by 13,000 employees who were denied breaks and overtime required by law.

This shows us why chicken is cheap — chicken sellers are even cheaper.

And as for that age-old question: Which came first, the corporate chicken industry or safety violations and lax inspections? Corporate chicken, of course.

Companies like Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride havelobbied for years to get out from under inspections, and it looks like they’ve finally succeeded. The Obama administration is getting ready to finalize a rule to cut 75 percent percent of USDA inspectors and put companies in charge of inspecting their own plants. But it’ll be OK if they miss a little dirt and doo-doo, because the chicken will be sprayed with bleach just in case. Health and safety groups are petitioning the USDA to just say no.

So let’s all celebrate Chicken Month in October. Here are some ideas that didn’t make the industry’s official list. Sign the petition against the new rule, tell Congress to raise the minimum wage, and “Eat Less Chikin.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.