Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Texas Farm Bureau Stands With Chicken Factory Operators

Texas Farm Bureau defends Chicken “Factory Farming”

Texas Farm Bureau Publications Director Mike Barnett believes that proponents of more humane farming methods make outrageous claims because they are pushing a vegan-based agenda to free the world of meat.

He cites statistics from the National Chicken Council that say that modern factory farms produce larger birds more quickly than smaller farms were able to do so 50 years ago – and they can do it while feeding the birds less food during their short 47 day lives.

"Mistreated chickens don't gain weight," explains Barnett.  And, according to Barnett, factory farmers are family-men, so stories about confinement in unsanitary, disease-ridden chicken factory farms in Texas where birds succumb to heat prostration, infectious disease and cancer are just that – stories.  Chicken growers, especially those who grow chickens under contract to Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms don’t take shortcuts – they are “family farmers” who produce birds humanely and who care, according to Barnett.

Mr. Barnett perhaps doesn’t recall how Pilgrim’s Pride’s bankruptcy in 2008-2009 left many of its contract growers in dire straits with worthless chicken houses and massive debt. Or how litigation continues against Pilgrim’s Pride by 107 contract poultry farmers who took on personal debt to grow chickens under long-term contracts to grow chickens for the company.

Barnett doesn't mention how complaints against Sanderson Farms with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality increased 15-fold in the three years since Sanderson growers built 400 "barns" in the area just east of Waco (each barn holds about 27,000 birds). And, we would guess he would disagree with the Texas Observer's characterization of Sanderson growers as modern-day sharecroppers in "Getting Plucked."

To see Barnett’s defense of contract farmers, click here.

State Farm Bureaus, along with the national Farm Bureau, continue to support big agriculture and oppose any changes geared toward factory farm reform. They oppose bans on battery cages, veal crates and pig gestation cages. They oppose mandated limits on non-therapeutic use of antibiotics and antimicrobials despite evidence of growing bacterial resistance. The Farm Bureaus claim to be the voice of agriculture, yet it seems to have stopped listening to consumers who have begun to shun the products of factory farms. It is time for the Farm Bureau to step aside and for real family farmers to speak with a different voice.