ByClaire Hettinger/ The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Sonja Solomonson is in the minority of farmers who produce chicken and other poultry. She lives on a small farm with a small flock, while her competitors raise thousands of birds, contracted with one of the major agribusiness companies.
Five companies — Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Perdue Farms and Koch Foods — produce 61% of the chickens Americans eat, about nine billion per year, which doesn’t leave much room for alternative methods of farming birds.
Costco sells its rotisserie chicken at the back of its stores at a loss to lure customers into the story to buy other things. Up until now those chickens by and large have come from Big Ag poultry producers like Tyson, Pilgrims Pride, and Perdue. But Costco is now bringing chicken production in house.
Tyson Foods Inc. recalled more than 75,000 pounds of chicken nuggets in April because pieces of plastic embedded in the chicken were giving consumers oral injuries. Federal work-safety inspectors have also cited Tyson Foods for dangerous working conditions at least three times within the last year.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that since March 2013 about 480 people across 25 states have become sick from consuming chicken contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Heidelberg Salmonella. Nearly two out of every five of those people had to be hospitalized.