John Oliver Explains How the Chicken Industry Systematically Screws Over Impoverished Farmers


Americans eat a ton of chicken—so much so, chicken farmers produce 160 million chicks a week just to keep up with national consumption, according to the latest “Last Week Tonight.” But despite the industry’s massive output, many contract farmers live near or below the poverty line, all while working under the constant fear of losing their jobs. And that’s because the business model is such that farmers own the equipment used to raise the chickens, and corporations own the chickens.

“That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money,” Oliver explains.

Perhaps the most damning part of the segment is a defense from Tom Super of the National Chicken Council, who responded to the question of why farmers live under the poverty line with the following: “Which poverty line are you referring to? Is that a national poverty line? Is that a state poverty line? The poverty line in Mississippi and Alabama is different than it is in New York City.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Oliver shot back. “It doesn’t matter. The poverty line is like the age of consent: if you find yourself parsing exactly where it is, you’ve probably already done something very, very wrong.”

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate