Farmers Plucked by Chicken Slump

Foreclosures loom as chicken company cuts contracts
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Feb 12, 2009 11:29 AM CST
Farmers whose contracts have been cut are left with football field-size chicken houses that have virtually no resale value.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Hundreds of poultry farmers face foreclosures on their pricey chicken houses after poultry giant Pilgrim's Pride dropped their contracts. Some are suing in return, claiming the company encouraged them to take on hefty mortgages and vowed to keep their grandkids in business, the Wall Street Journal reports. Most farmers own multiple football field-size coops that cost $200,000-plus, but have no resale value in this slump.

"It's a very sad situation," Pilgrim's president acknowledges. But "the company is in bad shape." This year, America's appetite for chicken waned for the first time since 1975, bursting a poultry bubble that emboldened the industry to make long-term investments. One Arkansas farmer went bankrupt after his contract was terminated with $100,000 left in coop payments. "That was my retirement," the 50-year-old laments.