Another Slimy Move From Big Chicken: What Is Mountaire Trying to Hide?

Mountaire Uses a Hammer To Keep Scales Tipped in Their Favor

Mountaire, the fourth-largest chicken company in the U.S., is wielding a hammer over their contract growers’ heads: a report from Reuters reveals that Mountaire sent letters to their 1,100 farmers explaining why they should oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) proposed tournament system transparency rule. The company gave their farmers form letters to submit to USDA, tainting the comment process — and because comments are public, Mountaire will know which farmers did or did not comply. It’s no surprise that Mountaire is pulling this slimy move to retain control over farmers, but that doesn’t make it any less despicable.

Currently, companies can leave farmers in the dark about how their pay is calculated within the tournament system and can discreetly sabotage their livelihoods if they don’t toe the company line. The USDA’s proposed rule would increase transparency in the system by requiring companies to share details about how farmers are paid and the quality of inputs, such as chicks and feed, they receive. Increasing transparency would make it easier for farmers to protect themselves from unfair practices. If Mountaire opposes making the system more transparent, it begs the question: what does Mountaire have to hide? Just how guilty are they?

In their recent statement announcing the extended comment period for the rule, the USDA emphasizes that comments can be made anonymously, acknowledging that farmers may not speak up out of fear of retaliation. But by asking their contract farmers to submit public comments on the company’s behalf, Mountaire will know which farmers did and did not toe the line — and who to send the next batch of sick chicks or low-quality feed to. Farmers shouldn’t have to worry they’ll face retaliation for not opposing rules meant to improve their contract conditions.

What Is Mountaire So Afraid of?

Mountaire claims the transparency rule would make poultry farming more expensive and decrease farmer wages. As we point out in our blog post, Cargill-Continental, which represents 15% of the poultry processing market, recently agreed to a consent decree that outlaws the company’s use of the tournament system. Cargill-Continental wouldn’t have agreed to the terms if it wasn’t profitable — so what does it say about Mountaire if increasing transparency in the tournament system jeopardizes their profits?

Take Action!

1,100 farmers are faced with a decision no American should have to make: risk losing their livelihoods, or act against their self-interest and give in to corporate intimidation. The heavy hand of Mountaire leaves farmers no choice, but you can stand up for farmers who can’t speak for themselves by submitting a comment before the August 23rd deadline.

Written by Jessica Cusworth; edited by Dee Laninga; concept developed by Joe Maxwell and Angela Huffman