On Factory Farms, Chickens and Workers Alike Suffer

Letter published by The New York Times:

To the Editor:

The poultry industry’s business practices are not only cruel to animals and farmers, but they’re also oppressive to workers.

More than 250,000 men and women work in poultry plants in this country in unbelievably harsh conditions. Workers stand shoulder to shoulder on both sides of long conveyor belts, most using scissors or knives, in cold, damp, loud conditions, making the same forceful cuts thousands of times a day, every day, as they skin, pull, cut, debone and package the chickens.

On most lines, workers handle 40 birds a minute (yes, a minute). Poultry plant workers are often seriously injured, at almost twice the rate of all industries. And they suffer work-related illnesses at a rate that is almost six times as high.

Further, to keep the lines running at all costs, poultry workers are often denied time to use a bathroom. Workers report having to wear diapers or soil themselves at work.

Inhuman treatment of workers should concern all consumers.

DEBBIE BERKOWITZ

Washington

The writer, a senior fellow for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project, is a former senior official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

(Read the letter at The New York Times.)

Back to Top of Page