Chicken is big business. According to Michael Welch, president of Harris Poultry and a National Poultry Council board member, the industry produced about 160 million chickens a week, yet many poultry farmers live at or below the poverty line.
John Oliver explored the business model and relationship between chicken companies and poultry farmers Sunday on "Last Week Tonight" Sunday. Companies, he said, own and provide chickens (which make money) to farmers who own the equipment and everything else (which costs money), and the companies set guidelines that can put farmers into debt and pits them against their neighbors to compete for pay. Farmers said they can also be punished for speaking out against the companies, and will be given smaller, poorer quality chickens by the companies if they publicly complain.
Lawmakers have looked into possible legislation which would benefit farmers, but they’ve faced resistance, which Oliver suggested came from chicken companies. His fix? To edit the Wikipedia pages of members of Congress on the appropriations committee who vote against legislation with words that can’t be reprinted here.