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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

The True Cost of Chicken: A Tale of Two Systems

Food Integrity Campaign | August 8, 2023

The following blog is written by Natalie Laurie, who is joining FIC this summer. Natalie is a recent graduate from both the Vermont Law School with a JD specializing in food and agriculture; and the CY Paris Cergy University in France, with an LLM and Master’s in Business, Tax, and Compliance Law.  

Upon graduation, Natalie completed her legal thesis on the importance of financial aid to small farms in order to promote worker’s rights and fair competition in the agriculture market as opposed to government subsidies for large corporate farms. You can read her full legal thesis here.  

In our modern society, the convenience of acquiring food from grocery stores often shields us from the true costs of production. When it comes to chicken farming, both the animals and the farmers are impacted by a system that prioritizes large corporate farms over smaller, local operations. This article explores the financing and regulation of chicken farming in the United States and France, shedding light on the importance of government support for smaller farmers. By examining these two contrasting approaches, we reveal the detrimental effects of favoring corporate farms, which not only harm animals and farmers but also the environment and the consumers they serve.

Subsidies and Consequences:

In the United States, most government subsidies are channeled towards large corporate farms, indirectly supporting environmental damage, and enabling abuses in animal welfare and workers’ rights. This approach not only perpetuates an unsustainable model of food production but also creates a system where small farmers struggle to compete. In stark contrast, France prioritizes local chicken farming, resulting in better food quality, improved worker standards, and increased transparency in animal welfare and food production practices.

Protecting Small Farmers:

France has taken proactive measures to protect smaller farmers from the anticompetitive behaviors of larger farms. Legislation has been enacted to promote fair competition and ensure that smaller farmers have a level playing field. This commitment to supporting local agriculture fosters a sense of community and solidarity, rather than cutthroat competition. For instance, farmers in France have access to grants from the Common Agricultural Policy, which enables them to start their operations without being burdened by overwhelming debt and interest payments.

Less Reliance on Banks:

The financing methods employed by chicken farmers in France are less reliant on banks compared to their American counterparts. This reduced dependency on financial institutions allows farmers in France to cultivate their businesses with more freedom and autonomy. By contrast, the vertical integration system in the United States places many farmers in a cycle of perpetual debt, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and unable to break free from the clutches of corporate influence.

Speaking Out and Seeking Change:

Increasingly, farmers in the United States are voicing their concerns about the problems they face within the current system. They share stories of being taken advantage of, blindsided, and forced into insurmountable debt. This growing chorus of voices highlights the urgent need to address the issues plaguing chicken farming in America. It is crucial to redirect government funding and regulatory focus towards supporting small, local farmers, as their success would benefit not only the environment and the farmers themselves but also the animals and the consumers who rely on them.

The comparison between chicken farming practices in the United States and France reveals the dire consequences of favoring large corporate farms over smaller, local operations. By shifting government funding and regulatory priorities, we can promote a more sustainable and ethical food system. Supporting small farmers through financing, legislation, and fair competition enables them to provide high-quality food, prioritize animal welfare, and enhance the well-being of their workers. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the environment, the farmers, the animals, and the consumers to advocate for a food system that values integrity and promotes the success of local farmers.



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