SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Tyson Foods Inc. is acting to improve communication with the farmers who raise chickens for the company and bring transparency to poultry grower pay.
First, Tyson developed a “Contract Poultry Farmers’ Bill of Rights” document which states growers have:
- The right to information detailing how much they are paid.
- The right to discuss their contract with outside parties.
- The right to a fixed length contract that can only be terminated for cause.
- The right to join an association of contract poultry farmers.
- The right to poultry welfare standards and training on poultry welfare standards.
Tyson pays more than $800 million annually to more than 3,600 independent poultry farmers under contract to raise chickens for Tyson Foods’ operations. The company said the average farmer has been raising chickens for the company for 15 years while some families have been raising Tyson’s chickens for three generations. Tyson supplies farmers with the birds, feed and technical advice. The farmer performs the labor and provides housing and utilities.
Contract grower pay has been a flashpoint in the poultry industry. In February 2017, a group of poultry growers sued leading US poultry processors, including Tyson, for allegedly conspiring to suppress compensation paid to farmers. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Perdue Farms Inc., Koch Foods Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc. and subsidiaries of those companies also were named as defendants in the lawsuit. On May 2, the defendants in the case were granted a motion to file a supplemental brief in support of a motion to dismiss the litigation.
“We value the farmers who raise our chickens and work hard to maintain good relationships with them, but also know we can do better,” said Doug Ramsey, group president of poultry for Tyson Foods. “That’s why we’re taking steps to enhance how we interact with them.”
A second initiative aimed at improving communications between Tyson and the company’s contract growers is the formation of an advisory council of poultry farmers. Currently, there are six farmer-members from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina.
“The council will give growers the ability to communicate directly with top management of Tyson. They are listening and very interested in our ideas as well as issues affecting growers,” said Johnny Simmons, one of the advisory council member-farmers who has grown chickens for 30 years. “The Bill of Rights that Tyson Foods has put together explains our relationship with the company and shows its commitment to our relationship. This is a working council, so we watch for results to come.”
Details are pending regarding the initial advisory council and a process that enables interested farmers to potentially participate as council members.
Finally, Tyson is working to integrate the information on a grower-specific website into a smartphone app. No release date for the app has been set.
“Farmers are the backbone of agriculture and the farmers we contract with are critical to our business,” Ramsey said. “We want them to know how much we appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to feed the world.”