Friday, February 28, 2014

Hope for the Mega Meat Manufacturers?

Abuse of human rights can occur anywhere, even next door.  Unfortunately, this appears to be true for Canada's next door neighbour, the USA and the Mega Meat Manufacturers.

The Mega Meat Manufacturers are the Supply Management Mafia in Canada for poultry, and the US mega corps like Tyson. Perdue, etc.

Human Rights Watch Inc. ("HRW") is a 30 year old NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) charity that is based in United States and around the world.  Instead of focusing their efforts outwards around the world at social justice hotspots in the Third World, in 2004 HRW had to focus their attention on the US meat processing industry, resulting in their 184 page report:

BLOOD, SWEAT, AND FEAR: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants.

HRW's 2004 report can be compared to a similar publication back in 1906, just 98 years earlier.

The Jungle (also available as a free pdf or Ebook) was written in 1906 by Upton Sinclair.  This is a novel solidly based on facts about recent immigrants to the US who were working and being abused in the Chicago meat packing plants.  What really got citizens riled up though, were the unhealthy and despicable practices used by these all powerful meat packing mega corps so as to maximize their power and profits.

Upton Sinclair was surprised at the public expressing greater concern for the quality of the food placed on their plates by this devilish system, rather than the people who were virtual slaves being used and abused to get that meat to the consumer's dinner plates.  He later said,

"I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident hit its stomach."

It appears that the food industry didn't learn its former lessons, and the same needs to occur again.  This time, HRW has a facts-based report that may have missed both the heart and the stomach.

Based on what I know from personal experience in poultry processing plants in Canada, and the research that I have done for Canada and US processing plants, the report seems believable, is based on objective evidence, and is collaborated by all the other evidence I have.

However, will it cause or contribute to launching the necessary changes in the industry?

Since the report came out in 2004, 10 years have passed.  Has there been significant change?  Based on a Google search, the HWR report is mentioned on a labor law university course, a workers compensation website, and is cited in a few books.  Not exactly a steam roller of change.

It appears that the report was thrown into the public's lab, but nobody became a champion of the cause.  The author was a consultant hired by HRW, so I assume they went on to finding other projects to pay the bills.  HRW has hundreds of projects to concern themselves with, and I assume that some are even more dire and higher priority in the grand scheme than a few thousand lost souls in the US meat packing industry.  Should HRW have dropped everything else to focus all of their efforts onto this one single issue, until completion?  Was it reasonable to expect Tyson, Perdue, and the other mega corps to change their evil ways from one flashbulb that popped, flooded the scene in brilliant light, then quickly faded back to black?

What would Upton Sinclair have advised, or done differently if he had been asked to do the 2004 report by HRW?

Most important of all for this Blog about the small flock poultry system vs. Supply Management mega corps in Canada, is this a worthy cautionary tale that we can learn from?

I believe Canadians can learn vicariously from the dismal experience in the US poultry and meat packing business.  Here is what I suggest:

  1. Organizations can only abuse people (whether customers, workers, suppliers, or others) only so much.  Multiply the severity, duration, and publicity of the abuse together as a measurement of the ticking abuse bomb.

  2. Based on the measurement method in Item #1, I estimate that we have less than 20 years before this meat industry abuse bomb suddenly goes off at grave consequences for the meat mega corps.   In case this encourages the meat mega corps to blindly continuing on their current path for another 19 years, I caution them that these issues tend to change abruptly all at once (see The Tipping Point) so there is no time to lose with correcting these chronic, latent, and mis-guided plans and defects.

  3. There are viable alternatives to the current methods employed.

    "For what will it profit a man
    if he gains the whole world
    and forfeits his soul?
    The Bible, Book of Mathew, 16:26

  4. If the meat mega corps are unwilling or unable to change their evil ways (which is highly likely, for they don't believe their world could suddenly collapse under their feet), the citizens, consumers, and abused workers will need to act on their own to create a solution.

  5. Remember, once a viable option begins to threaten the status quo, the mega meat manufacturers will attack, denounce, ridicule, or attempt to highjack the solution and destroy it before it hurts them.  Everyone will need to adequately protect themselves, as well as the solution.

  6. Because of the high capitalization required, the lack of competition due to overlapping oligopolies, and regulatory capture enjoyed by the mega corps, the people will have to fight a guerrilla chicken war against the mega corps.  Frontal assault is not a winnable option.

  7. There is likely 1 or more disgruntled chicken grower in every county who is currently, or previously been abused by the mega corps.  Being disgruntled most likely means they were blacklisted and are no longer a supplier to the mega corps.  Ask them to grow chicken for the local community on the basis of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or some similar basis.  With a direct to customer model, that disillusioned farmer will be able to earn significantly more with a community based model, than what they previous earned through the mega corps.

  8. Once the chickens are ready for harvesting, do a community-based chicken harvest similar to Connecticut's mobile abattoir system, or an on-farm processing similar to Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.
  9. Enjoy your safe, nutritious, locally produced, affordable, and sustainable chicken

In another similar video, Joel Salatin relates how typical factory farm chicken that is processed through an USDA approved high speed abattoir typically has 3600 CFU (Colony Forming Units) of bacterial contamination on the chicken when sold in retail grocery stores, even after dunking and spraying with numerous noxious chemicals to limit bacteria contamination.

Joel has had his operation as shown in the video tested, and he came in at 133 CFU's; which is just 3.69% of the heavy industry mega meat manufacturing results.

While 0.0 CFU is the ideal, Joe's method certainly seems better than what I've seen of the high speed abattoir lines.  As an example of high speed abattoirs see:   To me, this is pretty gruesome; no wonder mega meat manufacturers typically have 3,600 CFU

Joel's system is what we recommend for Canadian small flockers.

In speaking to Max Bert here on Manitoulin during a recent farm and abattoir tour of his place, he has had similar experiences and similar CFU results to Joel Salatin for his small, hands-on abattoir here on Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada.

It won't be easy, nor will it occur over night, but we can leave the mega meat manufacturers to stew in their purulent chicken dunk tanks, and create a better way for ourselves.

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