Former chicken farmers in five states have filed a federal lawsuit accusing a handful of giant poultry processing companies that dominate the industry of treating farmers who raise the chickens like indentured servants and colluding to fix prices paid to them.
The farmers located in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas allege that the contract grower system created by Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Perdue Farms, Koch Foods, and Sanderson Farms pushed them deep into debt to build and maintain chicken barns to meet company demands.
They say the companies colluded to fix farmer compensation at low levels to boost corporate profits, making it difficult for the farmers to survive financially. They are seeking class action status for the suit filed in federal court in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
The scheme keeps farmers in a state of indebted servitude "living like modern-day sharecroppers on the ragged edge of bankruptcy," the lawsuit filed on Jan. 27 says, quoting from the 2014 Christopher Leonard book "The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business."