Chicken farming hobby highlights changing industry

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.

Large animal feeding operations on the rise
Several states see shifts in animal production since 2011

The number of new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have increased across the U.S. over the past six years - bringing the total operations just under 20,000, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. From 2011 to 2017, the United States saw more than 1,400 new large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) established. That’s up 7.6 percent. Here's a look at the issue in maps and charts.

Mapping bird flu: the states hurting most

Highly pathogenic avian influenza – bird flu – has affected more than a dozen U.S. states and led to the slaughter of more than a billion birds. Poultry producers in Arkansas alone have had to kill more than 870 million broilers and about 30 million turkeys in attempt to control spread of the virus. In neighboring Missouri, producers have killed more than 440 billion broilers and about 11 million turkeys.