Roughly 97 percent of poultry farmers in the United States are “contract farmers.” This means each farm has an exclusive contract with a gigantic corporation like Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, or Perdue. The corporation gives the farmer the chicks, which the farmer raises to slaughtering age, then ships them back off to the corporation for processing. The corporation has an insane level of control over the farmer: they can decide how many and what quality of chicks to give, they can demand at a moment’s notice that the farmer make significant and expensive changes to the farm, and the farmer is legally not allowed to sue for unfair practices. In one lawsuit, the word “cartel” was used to describe chicken producers. It is, without exaggeration, indentured servitude. It also does not really work; roughly 71 percent of contract farmers are at or below the federal poverty line, according to a Pew survey.
The Modern Farmer report quoted above should have moderated its adjectives, but the point stands.