I’m conflicted over Tyson Foods’s decision to sell antibiotic-free chickens. On one hand, anything that increases supply and reduces the costs of chicken that aren’t pumped full of antibiotics is good. Antibiotic-laced chicken farms are breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, bacteria which can enter the food supply or transfer those resistance genes to other populations through anything from dirt on trucks from the farm, or fertilizer produced from the chicken droppings.
On the other hand, Tyson Foods has a horrific labor record. It provides cheap chicken by using every trick in the book to beat back union drives. The consequences for workers are severe. Unions can negotiate processing speeds that workers can manage savely, while nonunionized workers who complain about safety can simply be fired. Workers at Tyson plants are much more likely to be injured on the job than workers in the industry as a whole.
“Tyson always gets rid of workers who protest or who speak up for others,” says a poultry worker at the Tyson plant in Rogers, Arkansas. “When they jumped from thirty-two chickens a minute to forty-two, a lot of people protested. The company came right out and asked who the leaders were. Then they fired them. They told us ‘If you don’t like it, there’s the door. There’s another eight hundred applicants waiting to take your job.’ ”
I can’t knowingly support a company that acts like that, so I don’t (knowingly) buy Tyson products. But I want to encourage Tyson and its industry in a shift away from antibiotics.
Advise me, oh blogosphere! What is the best way to get antibiotic-free chicken without paying through the nose, and without making workers pay through arm-stumps?