Tyson has been working with poultry farmers on a contractual basis since the late 1940s and it has been a relationship that has worked effectively for both the farmer and the company. There are currently about 6,000 contract farmers who raise chickens for our company.
Tyson supplies the birds, feed and technical advice, while the poultry producer provides the labor, housing and utilities. This means the farmer is insulated from the risk of changing market prices for chicken and feed ingredients such as corn and soybean meal, which represent about half of the cost of growing a chicken. In other words, farmers are ensured of a consistent price for their efforts, no matter what the feed or grocery markets are doing.
The birds are raised in large houses that are designed to keep the birds as comfortable as possible. In the winter, thermostatically-controlled heaters keep the birds warm. In the summer, automatic fans on one end and cool cell pads on the other pull air through the house in a tunnel effect keeping the birds cool.
Automation also helps feed and water the chickens. Birds can drink from nipple drinkers that dispense water with a push of a button. Automatic feeders keep the specially-formulated feed coming when the birds begin to eat.
Six to seven weeks after arriving on the farm, the chickens have reached processing weight and are ready to head to a Tyson processing facility, where the standards of quality continue.
The company provides farmers with state-of-the-art veterinary support, scientifically formulated feed, and technical assistance, with Tyson Foods’ technical advisors typically visiting farms on a weekly basis. Tyson also provides producers with information on sound environmental practices, optimal lighting and ventilation for chicken, and disease control.
Farmer pay is outlined in the contracts between the farmer and the company. In general, the amount producers are paid is based on the feed conversion efficiency of the birds they raise. The payment formula includes such factors as the number of birds, the 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.
Tyson strives to support contract poultry farmers in their efforts to run their businesses wisely and to operate independent and sustainable enterprises.