The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken

USA poultry production has around 250,000 workers employed; mostly refugees, colored people, or immigrants, most of them being women.  Since the 1980s, their wage has declined for 40 %, while the speed of processing lines is twice as fast as they were back in 1979, according to a new research by Oxfam America.

In order to show the real economic  poultry production impact on workers as well as community, Oxfam America research exposed horrifying facts about employee’s acute injuries which weren’t treated correctly, and sometimes even ignored to keep the work going.


Line Lives

By interviewing dozens of workers, medical experts and advocates, the research called Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken, revealed the real costs of cheap poultry, including occupational injuries, chronic diseases, employee safety or lost wages from wage theft, as well as of sick leave.

Apparently, for every dollar given on a McDonald’s McNugget, only 2 cents are for workers in the processing plan to hang, trim cut, bread, package, and freeze the chickens.  For example, in 2014 CEO of Tyson Foods’ president has earned $12.2 million, which is around 550 times more than the total income of an average poultry employee.

Acute injuries- horrifying accounts

According to the research, the poultry production misses some basic worker rights, such as lacking of protective gear and bathroom breaks, as well as not properly treating acute injures.

Danielle Nierenberg, the president of Food Tank President says:  “Oxfam should be commended for exposing the true cost of poultry processing on worker health and safety. These workers are providing food to millions of Americans; yet don’t receive a living wage, paid time off, retirement security or strong worker safety protections”.

“By highlighting these conditions—and naming the companies responsible for them—Oxfam continues its long tradition of exposing problems in our global food system and supporting America’s food workers.”

Employer retaliation fear

Many poultry production employees reported to fear from their employer, so the vulnerable groups such as immigrants aren’t reporting such injuries.

The former staff attorney at Legal Aid of Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, Mary Goff, says: The companies “keep a climate of fear where the employees believe that at any moment they can and will be fired,”

“Then they are able to keep their workforce doing exactly as they please and they are able to treat people as a commodity that can be done away with when they want.”

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