“A car in every garage and a chicken in every pot” promised Herbert Hoover during the 1928 presidential campaign. It was the promise of modern America, where citizens never went hungry, but went where they chose in a steel chariot. We know that our cars have changed a great deal since before the great depression. Did you know that your chickens have done some changing as well?
When Hoover made his promise chickens were grown on traditional farms. After World War Two the BBC reported on the factory-farming phenomenon: a set of technologies meant to increase meat production using antibiotics and pesticides to allow for year-round indoor chicken raising. Today most chickens are factory farmed. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that 74% of the world’s poultry meat and 68% of our eggs are factory farmed.
These factory chickens are gross approximations of the birds we imagine when we think of a chicken. Modern chickens have bodies that are unnatural, and bred to serve the needs of the market place. According to journalists Sally and Sadie Kneidel, “The modern chicken is much different from the birds of just a couple of decades ago. For example, the American craving for breast meat and further-processed products has had an effect on the shape of the bird…They are bred to grow quickly, especially the breast muscles, which provide the most expensive cuts of meat. Their breast muscles may grow so big that occasional broilers become too heavy to walk and thus starve. Each farmer must walk the length of each of his/her sheds five times per day to check for dead birds, which may be cannibalized if left in place.” Our feathered friend is no longer the bird roosters crow after in the early morning.
Their account comes from a tour of a Tyson industrial farm. Tyson is the second largest meat processor in the world and largest meat producer. It supplies the chicken for KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Wal-Mart, Kroger, as well as prisons and for millions of people who buy chicken in stores around the nation. Tyson also supplies chicken for Bon Appétit at Carleton College, and it is time that stopped.
Tyson’s chickens are full of antibiotics, Tyson has been in legal disputes with the USDA because of efforts to hide this fact. The undersecretary of the USDA has publically called out Tyson for efforts to deceive regulators. One antibiotic cited is gentamicin, which can be toxic to inner ear cells, and can cause total hearing loss in some cases. Tyson’s chickens endanger our health, and do not belong on our plates.
Race and labor relations are not a strong point for Tyson either. In 2005 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tyson Foods for race bias, citing, amongst other things, a ‘whites only’ sign on a bathroom door. Many other complaints have been leveled by black employees against Tyson contracted farms in the south. I for one am disgusted that Carleton does business with a company perpetrating a modern day Jim Crow policy.
Environmental policy could be Tyson’s strong suit. Except for the 20 claims that have been brought against Tyson for violating Clean Water Act. Infractions include wastewater infiltration and ammonia runoff. According to local papers from around the country, counties in Missouri, Kentucky and Oklahoma have all successfully sued Tyson for its environmental practices. German scientists Zschocke, Johannes and Georg Hoffman have found that ammonia can cause liver failure and neurological problems. We should not tacitly promote this sort of corporate behavior by buying Tyson chicken.
Tyson’s criminality has not been limited to the United States. According to the New York Times,
“When top executives of Tyson Foods discovered that the company’s Mexican chicken plants were paying bribes to government inspectors, they not only allowed the practice to continue, they formed a committee to find a more acceptable way to make the illicit payments, according to federal court documents released on Thursday.”
As a school that has made international justice a focus, how can we sit idly by as an American corporation we support financially abuses the justice system of our neighbor Mexico in order to poison its environment.
Tyson is exactly the type of company that Carleton should have nothing to do with. The record of labor, coupled with abuses of the environment and international law make Tyson an unacceptable business partner for our liberal arts college. I urge all Carleton students to protest the use of Tyson chicken in our dining halls.
Please choose a different form of protein to eat and ask Bon Appétit to stop supporting this uncouth company.
- Taylor Owen is a second year student and writes on behalf of Food Truth.