Chicken a la Fed

The ethically aware consumer might take solace in the good news that demand for chicken has dropped in the United States. But then again, you might want to curb your enthusiasm and recall that the Federal Government is the meat industry’s biggest supporter.

True to form, last Monday the feds declared that the government will buy $40 million worth of unsold chicken products, which it will then promptly recycle into federal and school lunch programs. Ah, tax dollars at work–bailing out an industry to feed kids and government employees a bunch of processed chicken crap that will raise health care costs even further. That alone should should have dropped our credit rating.

The economic distortion here should make anyone right of Lenin cringe. Chicken producers–all of them factory farmers– get to continue increasing bird production in the face of declining demand. Brilliant!  The Wall Street Journal reports that the buyout, combined with  a similar bailout last year, “gives producers an extra $86 million in government chicken purchases above the roughly $100 million the USDA buys in scheduled chicken purchases for a year.”

And this multi-million dollar bone is just a small part of a larger skeleton of federal support for chicken producers. Researchers at Tufts University estimate that the broiler chicken people saved over $1.25 billion in feed costs from 1997 to 2005–all from taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Crazy tea-party nuts are seething over runaway government spending. Will they take on these absurd subsidies? Don’t count on it. These politicians, most of them from Big Ag states, are hand-in-glove with the corn-meat-soy conglomerates.

Well, at least the beneficiaries are thankful for the help. The National Chicken Council wrote this note of thank to Big Government: “At a time when the industry is under great stress due to the high cost of feed ingredients and the general economic slowdown, we appreciate USDA’s willingness to step forward and acquire additional chicken.”

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About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

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