Watch What It’s Like to Be a Factory-Farmed Chicken (UPDATED)


UPDATE: North Carolina farmer Craig Watts heard from the Perdue, the gigantic chicken processor for whom he grows his birds under contract, just hours after the below video early Thursday morning release, reports the veteran agribusiness journalist Chris Leonard. And Perdue isn’t pleased—on Thursday, “Perdue employees arrived at Watts’ farm and informed him that he was the subject on an internal animal welfare audit,” Leonard writes.  “If he [Watts] fails the audit, the company could cancel his contract and effectively put him out of business.” The company confirmed the move, pointing the finger at Watts for the rough conditions of the birds in the video, Leonard reports. He adds: “Farmers like Watts have little freedom in choosing how to raise their chickens, and they have no control over the kind of bird that is delivered to their farm.” His whole piece is worth reading.

The US meat industry maintains a strict code of secrecy over what goes on within the vast facilities where animals are fattened for slaughter, as Ted Genoways showed in a Mother Jones feature last year (which he expanded into an excellent full-length book). So the glimpses we get of these fecal-laden dungeons tend to be in the form of grainy videos, shot by undercover animal-welfare activists posing as workers—for example, the very recent, and quite gruesome, footage from inside a Seaboard Farms hog facility that supplies Walmart, captured by Mercy For Animals.

The above video is a different breed. In this one, Leah Garces, US director of Compassion in World Farming, got North Carolina farmer Craig Watts, who raises chickens on contract for poultry giant Perdue, to allow her to walk around freely, with a film crew, while he describes the scene. There’s nothing shadowy about it—just a farmer talking openly about the conditions under which he’s required by contract to raise chickens, over clear footage. Watts is clearly a dissident cog in the Big Ag machine. Most contract farmers walk the omertà line, for fear that the big meat packers they rely on will cut them off, leaving them holding massive debt they can’t pay—a story Chris Leonard laid out in great detail in the recent book The Meat Racket. Watts, though, is speaking freely. He was a major source in a recent Reuters exposé of antibiotic use on poultry farms. It will be interesting to see how Big Meat handles this rare blast of sunshine.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest