WASHINGTON – The Department of Agriculture on Thursday proposed a rule aimed at increasing equity in the poultry industry, which is dominated by a handful of meat processors.
The department also said it intended to investigate whether some companies needed to be more strictly regulated and announced a $ 200 million grant for independent meat processors to increase slaughterhouse capacity.
The actions “will ultimately help us give farmers and ranchers a fair shake up, strengthen supply chains and make food prices fairer,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
the proposed rule would require companies to disclose certain details to farmers, such as how pay is calculated, the amount of feed, chicks and supplies provided to other farmers, and where farmers rank according to a performance-based system that determines how they are paid. Farms would also be required to guarantee a minimum number of chickens they will supply to farmers in one year.
More than 90 percent of the chickens eaten by Americans are raised by farmers with contracts with poultry processors. four poultryprocessing company check more than half of the market, while the top 20 companies control 95%. Farmers are paid based on their performance relative to each other, pitting farmers against each other. This method, known as a poultry tournament, involves a large variation in income and has been criticized as abusive and opaque.
The department plans to release additional rules on meat packaging this year.