Global meat production is skyrocketing. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, meat production has more than doubled since the late 1980s. A major driver of this growth is trans-national agribusiness, which increasingly relies on unfair, and often abusive, production contracts with individual farmers. This type of production began with chicken farmers in the United States, but now it is spreading rapidly world-wide, particularly in the global south.
When chicken production began to industrialize in the 1940s, the major companies came up with a new system for organizing the producers: production contracts. The boilerplate language in these contracts has evolved over time to become one-sided, with benefits and security going to the companies and the majority of the risks placed on the farmers.
The use of production contracts is spreading into other types of livestock production and into other markets. If we want food that is produced fairly, we must expose the power imbalances in the current system and help farmers establish policies and regulations to protect themselves from industry abuses.