Feeding the World with America’s Poultry Farmers

Tyson Foods began as a chicken business, nearly 90 years ago, and today, we are one of the leading supporters of U.S. poultry farmers. We depend on our network of small and independent farmers to supply our plants – and we only succeed when they also succeed. 

We have been working with poultry farmers on a contractual basis since the late 1940s. We supply the birds and feed, as well as technical expertise, while the poultry farmer provides the labor, housing and utilities to support the birds. This benefits the farmers because it insulates the farmer from the risk of changing market prices for chicken and feed ingredients such as corn and soybean meal, which represents most of the cost of raising a chicken. So, farmers’ compensation is not dependent on what the feed costs or prices at the grocery store. This benefits American consumers because the incentive-based pay system helps keep the price of nutritious chicken affordable for millions of families and the foodservice industry.

This system has been successfully helping feed America – and the world – for nearly a century. Today, as demand for chicken goes up, it is to our benefit to help all of our partner farmers deliver healthy birds to help meet this demand. When they succeed, our own business does better. In fact, a 2022 study by Agriculture Economist, Dr. Thomas Elam found that the median income of contract poultry farmers was significantly higher than both all farm households and all U.S. households.

Today, we pay nearly $820 million annually to the more than 3,600 poultry farmers who contract with us. Traditionally, companies like Tyson provide incentives to farmers to deliver safer, healthier and better quality chickens: while every farmer gets paid a base rate, farmers who deliver birds above the average standard can receive a bonus that’s based off a points system. Simply put, Tyson pays more for better performance – a concept shared across many industries.

However, we recognize there are other ways to incentivize performance, and so we’ve been piloting different types of payment systems. For example, at our Humboldt, Tennessee facility, farmers get a base rate depending on the size of their poultry barns. They can also receive bonuses depending on the quality and efficiency of their flock. 

Respecting our Partners

We respect and value the contribution of the farmers we work with, and have detailed guidance for our relationship in the Tyson Foods’ Contract Poultry Farmers’ Bill of Rights, which we launched in in 2018. Highlights include farmers’ right to:

• Information detailing how much they are paid.
• Discuss their contract with outside parties, including legal counsel.
• A fixed length contract that can only be terminated for cause.
• Join an association of contract poultry farmers. 
• Industry leading poultry welfare standards and training on those standards.

We also established a Contract Poultry Farmer Advisory Council so we could have open, transparent communications between poultry farmers and Tyson. One of the outcomes of this council was the creation of an app that gives farmers access to real time information on when the company will deliver chicks from the hatchery or feed to their farms, allowing them time to properly prepare their facilities for the birds.

Scott - A Third Generation Grower

We proudly work with thousands of independent poultry farmers across the country every day, bringing quality protein from family farms to family tables. Some families, like Scott’s, have been raising chickens for us for generations. For them, it’s a source of pride - and a labor of love. Thank you for helping feed the world.

Tyson Poultry Farmer – Jacque 

Farmer Jacque and her husband grew up farming. They know the value of hard work and wanted to pass that on to their kids. She’s keenly focused on animal welfare. She knows when she goes to the store and sees that red Tyson label that the other farmers have worked just as hard as her family. She wants to make sure that she supports Tyson Foods the way Tyson Foods has supported her. She says the name Tyson represents quality, it represents hard work, it represents animal welfare and everyone working together to advocate for a healthy, happy animal.

We're Committed – Vinh

Farmer Vinh left a job as a systems administrator for the opportunity to farm so that he could see his efforts pay off and to have something to leave to his children. He’s thankful for the help and support from his Tyson Foods field tech. For Vinh, it's more than just a reputation; it's about producing good, quality product for the consumer. And he says farming is one of the best decisions he’s made!

American Made: Is Tyson Chicken Produced in the USA? 

Meet Bill and Jeff. Bill is a Truck Driver for Tyson Foods and Jeff is a poultry farmer. They’ve been friends for 5 decades. They grew up together and spent their whole life in the same community. Jeff is thankful for the oversight, technology and advancements in the American farming industry. As Jeff says, farmers are important and he’s built something pretty special.

We’re Committed – Grant

Farmer Grant is looking forward to passing down his farm to his son. Poultry farming has made his diversified operation financially stable enough to do that. He believes you get out of it what you put into it with poultry farming. He takes good care of his chickens and he sees the results when he sells them. He takes pride in feeding the world. He knows chicken doesn’t just come from grocery stores, it comes from farms.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is contract poultry farming?
What is contract poultry farming?

The practice of farmers raising chickens under contract for poultry processing companies has been around since the 1930s and is the industry standard. Tyson Foods has been working with poultry farmers on a contract basis since the late 1940s and it’s been a relationship we believe works well for both the farmer and the company. We supply the birds and feed, and provide technical advice, while the poultry farmer provides the labor, housing and utilities. This cooperation between Tyson Foods and family farms increases efficiency and quality, while maintaining affordable prices for consumers.

The average farmer has been raising chickens for Tyson Foods for 17 years. Some farm families have been raising chickens for us for three generations.

What are the benefits for farmers?
What are the benefits for farmers?

Contract farming insulates the farmer from the risk of changing market prices for chicken and feed ingredients such as corn and soybean meal, which represents the majority of the cost of raising chicken. So, farmers’ compensation is not dependent on what the feed costs or prices at the grocery store.

How long have most contract farmers been raising chickens for Tyson Foods?
How long have most contract farmers been raising chickens for Tyson Foods?

The average contract poultry farmer has been raising chickens for Tyson Foods for nearly 17 years. Nearly 30% of our contract poultry farmers have been raising birds for us for three generations, speaking to the strength of the relationship with Tyson. And we often receive inquiries from other famers, also interested in raising chickens for us.

How long are Tyson Foods’ contracts with poultry farmers?
How long are Tyson Foods’ contracts with poultry farmers?

The average contract we have with our poultry farmers is for 10 years.

How are the farmers for broiler chickens paid?
How are the farmers for broiler chickens paid?

We use a performance-based incentive system that rewards poultry farmers for raising high quality birds. The details are outlined in the written contracts with the farms. All farmers get paid a minimum base rate for the chickens they raise and can also earn a premium for bird quality. The incentive system rewards poultry farmers who safely and effectively raise chickens that meet our customers’ demands – while meeting all standards of animal welfare.

The payment formula includes such factors as the number of birds, amount of feed used, the performance of their flock compared to those raised by other contract farmers and the weight of the birds delivered to the processing plant.

Is Tyson Foods the only poultry company using this payment system?
Is Tyson Foods the only poultry company using this payment system?

No. It’s used by many poultry processing companies in the U.S to determine farmer compensation and keep nutritious chicken affordable for millions of American families and restaurants.

How much money does a farmer make?
How much money does a farmer make?

Income from chicken farming varies and depends on a number of factors. For some farmers, it’s a sole source of income. For many, it’s supplemental income to another job or the raising of crops or other livestock. In fact, a 2022 study by Agriculture Economist, Dr. Thomas Elam found that the median income of contract poultry farmers was significantly higher than both all farm households and all U.S. households. The farmers we work with are also paid in a timely manner—receiving their first payment promptly before the close of the 15th day following the week in which they were delivered to the plant.

Are there federal regulations protecting broiler chicken farmer rights in a contract relationship?
Are there federal regulations protecting broiler chicken farmer rights in a contract relationship?

The poultry processor-broiler chicken farmer relationship is extensively regulated by federal law. For example, by law farmers are entitled to:

  • A written copy of their contract with the poultry company.
  • Information detailing how much they are paid.
  • Information explaining how a contract can be cancelled.
  • Right to a 90-day written notice of the processor’s intention to terminate the contract.
  • Right to terminate the contract with the processor by giving a 90-day written notice.
  • Right to discuss their contract with outside parties.
  • Right to join an association of farmers.
Do chicken farmers need to take on debt to start or expand their business?
Do chicken farmers need to take on debt to start or expand their business?

Chicken farming is like any other business; people often have to borrow some money to start, improve or expand their operations. Each of our contract chicken farmers must decide on their own the size and scope of their operations and how much debt they are willing to take on.

Do you require farmers to upgrade their chicken houses?
Do you require farmers to upgrade their chicken houses?

Other than improvements, maintenance, or repairs to address animal well-being issues, we do not require equipment or housing specification upgrades in the middle of contracts. In recent years, the technology to modernize chicken housing has become more widely used in the industry and benefits are better known, so we require farmers to meet a set of housing specifications that are outlined in the contracts. The benefits of more modern housing include a more comfortable living environment for the birds with improved ventilation and more uniform temperatures through the barn. It also saves energy to heat and cool the house which is a savings for the farmer.

Does Tyson Foods help chicken farmers experiencing problems with the performance of their farm?
Does Tyson Foods help chicken farmers experiencing problems with the performance of their farm?

We work closely with our farmers, including regular visits from our service technicians to provide support and technical expertise. In fact, we invest more than $30 million every year to help small, independent farmers implement agricultural best practices, including animal welfare. If a farmer is not performing well, we have a program in place designed to help get them, and their small business, back on track.

What types of rights do farmers have as part of their contract?
What types of rights do farmers have as part of their contract?

All farmers who grow chickens for Tyson Foods have rights, which are part of their contract. The rights are outlined in the CONTRACT POULTRY FARMERS’ BILL OF RIGHTS.

What different types of payment systems are you piloting?
What different types of payment systems are you piloting?

At facilities like Humboldt, Tennessee, farmers get a base rate depending on the size of their poultry operation. They can also receive bonuses depending on the quality and efficiency of their flock.

Additional Resources

A Birds Eye View of How Chicken Farmers Are Paid:

This structure – based on the most fundamental elements of any business atmosphere – is the best way to ensure that chicken farmers are rewarded for producing quality chickens in an environmentally sustainable way. It also ensures that the welfare of the birds is the farmers’ top priority.

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