Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken

Oxfam Research Report, Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken. Oxfam America, 26 October 2015. “Chicken is the most popular meat in America , and the poultry industry is booming. Profits are climbing, consumer demand is growing, and executive compensation is increasing rapidly. But one element remains trapped at the bottom: the workers on the poultry processing line. Poultry workers 1) earn low wages of diminishing value, 2) suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, and 3) often experience a climate of fear in the workplace. These problems affect the entire industry, but the top four chicken companies control roughly 60 percent of the domestic market: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms. As industry leaders, these companies can and should implement changes that will improve conditions for poultry workers across the country.

The full report explores industry history and trends in consumption, documents the realities and challenges of life working on the line, and offers concrete recommendations to improve conditions.”

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Seafood From Slaves: AP Investigation

Robin McDowell, Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza, Seafood From Slaves. Associated Press Investigation, 25 March 2015. “An AP investigation helps free slaves in the 21st century. Over the course of 18 months, Associated Press journalists located men held in cages, tracked ships and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The reporters’ dogged effort led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and traced the seafood they caught to supermarkets and pet food providers across the U.S.”

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. The articles are presented here in their entirety.”

Winner of the 2016 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting.

Winner of the 2015 IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) Medal for Investigative Reporting.

Winner of the 2015 George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting.

Winner of the 2015 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism.

Democracy Now!, Is the Seafood You Eat Caught by Slaves? Meet the Pulitzer Winners Who Broke Open a Global Scandal. 18 April 2016.

Joaquin Sapien, Captive Labor and the Reporters Who Exposed an International Scandal. ProPublica, 18 April 2016.

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A Bug in the System: Why last night’s chicken made you sick

Wil S. Hylton, A Bug in the System: Why last night’s chicken made you sick. The New Yorker, 2 February 2015. “Late one night in September of 2013, Rick Schiller awoke in bed with his right leg throbbing. Schiller, who is in his fifties, lives in San Jose, California. He had been feeling ill all week, and, as he reached under the covers, he found his leg hot to the touch. He struggled to sit upright, then turned on a light and pulled back the sheet. “My leg was about twice the normal size, maybe even three times,” he told me. “And it was hard as a rock, and bright purple.”… At the hospital, five employees helped move Schiller from the car to a consulting room. When a doctor examined his leg, she warned him that it was so swollen there was a chance it might burst. She tried to remove fluid with a needle, but nothing came out. “So she goes in with a bigger needle—nothing comes out,” Schiller said. “Then she goes in with a huge needle, like the size of a pencil lead—nothing comes out.” When the doctor tugged on the plunger, the syringe filled with a chunky, meatlike substance. “And then she gasped,” Schiller said.”

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U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit: Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry

Michael Moss, U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit. The New York Times, 19 January 2015. “At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise. There are, however, some complications. Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed. Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation….”

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Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables

Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti (Photography and Video), Product of Mexico. Los Angeles Times, 7-14 December 2014. Four-part series: “Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti traveled across nine Mexican states, observing conditions and interviewing workers at some of the mega-farms that have powered the country’s agricultural export boom.” Part 1, Harsh Harvest: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables.A Times reporter and photographer find that thousands of laborers at Mexico’s mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers…. Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.” Part 2, No Way Out: Desperate workers on a Mexican mega-farm: ‘They treated us like slaves.’  “Scorpions and bedbugs. Constant hunger. No pay for months. Finally, a bold escape leads to a government raid, exposing deplorable conditions. But justice proves elusive…. A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.” Part 3, Company Stores: Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt. “The mom-and-pop monopolies sell to a captive clientele, post no prices and track purchases in dog-eared ledgers. At the end of the harvest, many workers head home owing money…. The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.” Part 4, Child Labor: Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields. “An estimated 100,000 Mexican children under 14 pick crops for pay. Alejandrina, 12, wanted to be a teacher. Instead, she became a nomadic laborer, following the pepper harvest from farm to farm…. [These] 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.”

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Farmaceuticals: The drugs fed to farm animals and the risks posed to humans

Brian Grow, P.J. Huffstutter and Michael Erman, Farmaceuticals: The drugs fed to farm animals and the risks posed to humans. Reuters Investigates, Part One, 15 September 2014. Part Two, 4 December 2014. Part Three, 23 December 2014. Part One: “Documents reveal how poultry firms systematically feed antibiotics to flocks…. Pervasive use [of antibiotics] fuels concerns about impact on human health, emergence of resistant superbugs.” Part Two: “On American dairy farms, sharp rise in the misuse of a potent but risky drug…. The antibiotic ceftiofur is a wonder drug for dairy farmers. But its strength–and the frequency at which it’s used improperly in cattle–pose a threat to public health.” Part Three: “Veterinarians face conflicting allegiances to animals, farmers–and drug companies…. The FDA is counting on vets to curb antibiotic use, but not even the government knows which of the animal doctors has financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.”

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The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Michael Moss, The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food. The New York Times, 20 February 2013. “The public and the food companies have known for decades now — or at the very least since…[1999] — that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control?”

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The Burger That Shattered Her Life: Trail of E. Coli Shows Flaws in Ground Beef Inspection System

Michael Moss, The Burger That Shattered Her Life. The New York Times, 3 October 2009. “Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes. Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed. Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.

Michael Moss and members of The New York Times Staff won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for nine articles published between 5 March 2009 and 9 February 2010 “for relentless reporting on contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues that, in print and online, spotlighted defects in federal regulation and led to improved practices.”

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Harvest of Shame: The Plight of Migrant Agriculture Laborers

Edward R. Murrow, Harvest of Shame. CBS Reports, 25 November 1960. John Light: “The people who harvest our fruits and vegetables are, today [2013], among the country’s most marginalized. They earn well below the poverty line and spend a substantial portion of the year unemployed. They do not have the right to overtime pay or to collective bargaining with their employers. In some cases, workers have faced abuses that fall under modern-day slavery statutes…. This is not a new phenomenon….”

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The Harvest Gypsies: Migrant Agriculture Laborers in California in the 1930s

John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies. San Francisco News, 5-12 October 1936. PBS, Need to Know, 1 March 2013: “Before he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck was commissioned by The San Francisco News to write a series of  articles on the migrant laborers of the Salinas Valley. The result, ‘The Harvest Gypsies” (1936) were published consecutively from October 5 to October 12, 1936. In 1938 the Simon J. Lubin Society published The Harvest Gypsies, with an added eighth chapter, in pamphlet form under the title, Their Blood is Strong. Steinbeck’s reportage is stark. The images seen in the Farm Security Administration’s photos bear out his every word.”

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