Government Aids Poultry Industry
The federal government steps forward for its friends in the poultry industry.
A recent headline on meatingplace.com says it all: "USDA buys chicken products to help ailing industry."
As demand for chicken meat remains far below the number of birds who are actually being raised and killed, rather than allowing the market to adjust to basic supply and demand principles, the federal government Monday announced it will buy $40 million of unwanted chicken products that will be dumped on our nation's school kids and others in federal food programs.
In short, chicken-meat companies have continued increasing the number of birds they raise for food while demand has remained flat. Normally, in a free market, an industry that produces beyond what consumers want will contract. But not the poultry industry. It instead relies on regular government support in times like these—and by that I mean nearly all the time.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the buyout, combined with a similar bonus government purchase last year, "gives producers an extra $86 million in government chicken purchases above the roughly $100 million the USDA buys in scheduled chicken purchases for a year."
And the support isn't just in terms of buying unwanted product. The poultry industry receives billions in indirect agricultural subsidies that artificially reduce the cost of the most expensive part of their business: corn and soy grown to feed these billions of birds.
The Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University estimates that the broiler chicken industry alone saved $1.25 billion in feed costs from 1997 to 2005 just from taxpayer-funded subsidies. Perhaps now that the Congress is more focused on slashing wasteful spending, these unnecessary and fiscally reckless industry handouts may finally be reduced.
Why does this matter? Well, for many reasons, but most notably because these handouts mean that far more birds are raised on factory farms than American consumers would normally buy, especially if the true cost of their meat was reflected in the marketplace. And as Animal Visuals points out, poultry consumption results in far more animal deaths than most other animal products.
Ending these handouts is the best option, and if the government is going to use our tax dollars for such purposes, at a bare minimum it should require animal-welfare improvements in the same way the auto industry had to improve fuel efficiency to get a federal bailout. And of course, when the auto industry got its federal dollars, it still had to return the money. Think the poultry industry will have to do that? I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Not everyone is upset by this latest government bailout of the poultry industry, however. The National Chicken Council breathed a sigh of relief on behalf of its beleaguered industry, noting, "At a time when the industry is under great stress due to the high cost of feed ingredients and the general economic slowdown, we appreciate USDA's willingness to step forward and acquire additional chicken."
In all the ways the American people expect the federal government to "step forward" these days, I’m not exactly sure this is what we had in mind.
VN contributor Paul Shapiro is the senior director of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States. Follow him on Twitter at @pshapiro.
Biggest Airlift in History Returns 33 Circus Lions to Africa
"Operation Spirit of Freedom" to take 33 lions from 10 circuses in Peru and Colombia back to their native land in Africa.
Read More »
Innovative Vegan Restaurants Open Outside of Sydney
Sydneys Bondi suburb is now home to a Znickers mylkshake-making sweet shop and an entirely milk-free coffee shop.
Read More »
Los Angeles Bans Sale of Bred Cats, Dogs, and Rabbits
City pet stores will now promote adoption of rescued animals instead of profiting from breeder-supplied cats, dogs, and rabbits.
Read More »
Researchers Create Cruelty-Free Leather Made from Kombucha
A mixture of fiber from the fermented tea, sugar, vinegar, bacteria, and yeast yields a new material that some hope can replace animal-based leather.
Read More »
Toronto to Get First Vegan Food Truck
The Vegan Extremist will be hitting the streets of Toronto in May to serve Indian and Thai-inspired dishes.
Read More »
- New Vegan Consulting Firm Launches This Week
- Queen of England Awards Vegan Chocolate Company
- Russell Simmons Pens Open Letter to Pope
- Largest Producer in US Recalls 4.5 Million Pounds of Chicken
- Pie Five Pizza Brings More Vegan Options to Kansas
- This Weekend's VegFest LA Expects Record Attendance
- UK TV Personality Invests in Vegan Bistro
- Stella McCartney Releases Vegan Perfume
- Steve-O Promotes Wendy's Veggie Burger
- Vegan Summer Camp To Be Held in NY, CA, and MA
- Wendys Vegan-Friendly Burger a Hit in Test Markets
- Vegan April Fools Gag Becomes Best-Seller at Restaurant
- Business Insider Profiles Vegan Boxer
- National Review: "Animal Welfare is a Conservative Issue"
- World Could Thrive Without Deforestation by Going Vegan
- Vegan Restaurant to Open in NYC Subway Station This Week
- Vegan Passover Seder Options Profiled in LA Times
- Vegan Dad Returns Restaurant Lobster to Sea, Goes Viral
- Jon and Tracey Stewart to Expand Animal Sanctuary
- New Study Links Meat to Stomach Cancer