Chicken “The Dangerous Transformation” Blog Post 3/19/2022

This week’s reading was one of the more interesting to me, since most of what was covered throughout the book, I had never learned about before, or had ever heard about in a documented work. The rise in popularity in chicken and the consumption of it across America was something I believed had always been in place, however in Chapter 2 not only is the actually rise of mainstream consumption a more recent event, I also didn’t know that the cause was WWII. The fact that not only was there a technological revolution going on due to the nation’s war effort, the fact that chicken was not a food source widely rationed in America was quite surprising to read about. The influence of the “Food for Freedom” program can’t be understated in that by not only making the consumption of chicken a patriotic duty, and promoting it with great effort, the increased desire for it would be a economic boon for many farmers across America. The foundational changes that occurred as a result of a number of events in regards to the Wilkes County Poultry farm, is what is discussed as the beginnings of this streamlined process of chicken production here in America. The partnering of “Holly Farms” with farmers who produced the grains/feed, partnering with the local freezer producer, to the further “horizontal integrations” that would take place over time is what caused them to become one of the biggest leaders in the poultry market. This trend towards “Horizontal integration” is a process mirrored in many large scale companies that require a number of steps, materials, or processes to sell their desired product. By choosing to incorporate and manage all of these steps in house Holly Farms was able to mitigate fluctuations in different steps in the process as well as saving money. The influx of Latin American immigrant workers is something I heard about as a child as well as continuing to this day since many of these immigrants would serve as prime cheap workers to be hired within these massive chicken production facilities. The issues with this labor force is that many if not most of these workers are being exploited by their companies and are not being treated with the standards of safety, training, or even pay compared to their white counterparts in similar industries. The concern of “Do Americans even produce their own food?” mentioned at the end of page 95 is something I have also thought about once upon a time, since growing up in the South I have heard discussions concerning what type of foods a “real American” should be eating or in some cases hearing complaints about these “sweatshops” being mostly immigrant and probably illegals at that is something I heard a lot growing up. These beliefs were probably enforced by cases such as the one discussed in chapter 5, about how Tyson would pay these “recruiters” large sums of money to procure illegal workers for them. The story of Michael and Roberto and their conflicting viewpoints on the operation of the rebreader can be distilled down to the belief of time is money, and that the preferred method of production by the higher ups is to cut corners in order to save money which in most cases produces problems that compromises the quality of the chicken, as well as making the internal work culture toxic. The clear lack of understanding that Michael as in regards to how the machinery works and what is causing the problems as well as his stubbornness is a type of personality that is quite prevalent in a number of industries in that since his method of working the production line has always worked he would always talk down any opinions that criticized his process. Lastly the closing chapter’s remarks about “Friendly Chicken” and the company Bay Friendly Chicken is an interesting, and contrasting viewpoint to myself. The points leading the author’s discussion lie in that Americans are willing to pay more for a better, healthier, and more traceable chicken, in most cases. This I agree with and in today’s current food landscape their is a strong push for more healthier, organic, options in regards to food, however it is the cost of these foods that has me concerned. The pay of most workers is not adequate enough to even cover the bare necessities of their lives let alone going out of their way to find, and purchase more expensive version of foods such as chicken. This movement towards better food quality, and traceability must also go hand in hand with the rights of workers both within the industries that produces them but also those that are the consumers themselves.

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