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12 Reasons Why You Should Be Extremely Concerned About Tyson Foods

Published on December 8, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

Ashley Schaeffer Yildiz / Rainforest Action Network

Tyson Foods, in its over 80 years of operation, has had a hugely negative impact on our food system. Tyson Foods profits off the cheap land and cheap labor that grease the wheels of the industrial food complex, specializing in the production of packaged “food” made with conflict palm oil and factory farmed meat. Palm oil is an ingredient in at least 36 Tyson products.

Tyson Foods and its global subsidiaries are one of the world’s largest producers of chicken, beef, and pork––entirely raised and processed in industrial operations. It’s also well known for its popular “prepared foods” like Sara Lee baked apple pies which contain conflict palm oil. As the parent company of numerous sub-brands, including “Snack Food 20” laggard Hillshire Brands, it markets leading brands such as Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells and State Fair.

Here are 12 reasons why we should all be extremely concerned about Tyson Foods.

1. Industrial food production.

A very small number of corporations control the vast majority of the world’s food trade: four companies produce more than 58 percent of the world’s seeds; four global firms account for 97 percent of poultry genetics research and development; and yet another four produce more than 60 percent of the agrochemicals farmers use.

Chickens raised in factory farms live in filthy, overcrowded conditions as seen by the battery cages above. 8.5 billion chickens are killed each year in the US alone and processed in factory farms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia commons)

2. Corporate consolidation.

Unchecked corporate consolidation has driven out much of the diversity in the marketplace and food system, creating powerful agribusiness giants who control much of what ends up on our plate. Big Ag controls over 83 percent of all foods in the U.S. marketplace, dictating much of what is available in the market. Tyson’s buyout of Snack Food 20 laggard Hillshire Brands marks one of the biggest mergers in the packaged food industry and establishes Tyson firmly in the top two companies by sales in the global processed meat market.


Unchecked corporate consolidation has driven out much of the diversity in the marketplace and food system (Photo credit: Lyza / Flickr)

3. Labor rights abuses for conflict palm oil.

The palm oil industry is rife with forced and child labor. Because Tyson Foods lacks an adequate palm oil procurement policy, it is at extreme risk of sourcing palm oil from companies that are violating the rights of workers. Tyson Foods does not disclose its suppliers, but could have ties to IOI Group, FELDA, or Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK)––companies that have been exposed for their exploitative labor practices.

Recent reports have exposed labor exploitation on plantations owned by palm oil giant Indofood, which is a current member of the RSPO and continues to be certified as “sustainable.” This case and others show that Tyson Foods can not rely on this flawed certification system to ensure that it is not connected to companies that are cheating workers out of fair pay and benefits, threatening workers’ health with toxic chemicals, or compelling workers to hire children and bring their spouses to work through an unjust wage system.

The palm oil industry is rife with forced and child labor. Photo credit: RAN (Indofood Report)

4. Labor rights abuses for industrial meat.

The meat and poultry industry has one of the highest rates of injury and illness of any industry according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and the U.S. Department of Labor calculates that poultry workers are injured five times more than other workers. Despite increasing production line speeds, Tyson’s poultry workers are routinely denied bathroom breaks, and resort to wearing diapers.

The company fails to provide adequate medical care to injured workers, under reports incidents of injury and illness, and denies responsibility for workers who become injured or disabled. The company is routinely fined by the federal government for refusing to pay overtime wages.

Poultry workers suffer amputations at three times the rate for all workers—higher than even high-risk occupations like mining. Latina guest worker employee on rapidly moving chicken processing line, Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo

5. Displacing family farmers for conflict palm oil.

Tyson Foods lacks a palm oil policy strong enough to ensure it does not source conflict palm oil. It is estimated that 2.5 million Dayak Indigenous people in Borneo alone have been displaced to make way for industrial commodity production, namely for conflict palm oil plantations, which produce palm oil that then may be used in products like Sara Lee baked pies.

In Indonesia, more than 700 land conflicts are related to the palm oil industry.

Monocrop palm oil plantations cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. Lush rainforests are destroyed and replaced by biological deserts void of biodiversity. (Photo credit: Nanang Sujana)

6. Displacing family farmers for industrial meat.

In 1950, 95 percent of broiler chicken farms were independent in the U.S. Just five years later, independent farms only accounted for 10 percent of the industry, with most growers selling their goods under contract with a company.

Today, 97 percent of chickens are produced on contract farms, in a system completely rigged in favor of large corporate processors. With less than 2 million family farms surviving in the U.S. today, the once-thriving more than 6 million family farms have been decimated by powerful corporations such as Tyson Foods.

The little red barn on Tyson’s Hillshire Farm label is misleading: not a single one of its farm animals is raised on pasture. Tyson Foods is driving the explosion of factory farming around the world. (Photo credit: Frances Gunn)

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