A Bill of Rights for contract poultry farmers

SPRINGDALE, Arkansas, 3 May 2018 – Tyson Foods, Inc. is launching several new initiatives aimed at enhancing communications and transparency with the thousands of independent farmers who grow the company’s chickens
calendar icon 4 May 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

The company has developed a Contract Poultry Farmers’ Bill of Rights, is forming an advisory council made up of poultry farmers and is investing in technology for additional communications.

“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.”

Tyson Foods has been successfully working with poultry farmers on a contractual basis since the late 1940s. The company supplies the birds, feed and technical advice, while the farmer provides the labor, housing and utilities.

The company pays more than $800 million annually to more than 3,600 independent poultry farmers who contract to raise chickens for its operations. The average farmer has been raising chickens for Tyson Foods for 15 years and some families have been raising chickens for the company for three generations.

A full copy of the Bill of Rights is available on the company's website; highlights include:

  • 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

“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.”

“Two-way communication is key to any productive relationship,” Ramsey said. “The goal of the advisory council is to provide a platform where contract farmers can share their views of the business environment for raising chickens, while we can gather insights that might help us improve how we operate.”

The company is still working on the details regarding the initial advisory council as well as a process so that farmers who are interested may be able to potentially participate as members of the council. Currently, there are six farmer-members from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina.

A poultry grower-specific website has operated for many years as a communications tool for contract farmers, but much of the information published on the site will soon be tied to a functional smartphone application that farmers will be able to download. The development of the application is under way, but a release date has not yet 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. This announcement is one more way we want to say, ‘thank you.’”

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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