Tyson Foods

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.

Tyson Foods is the largest meat-processing company in the world. It sells chicken, beef and pork in the United States and over 90 other countries. Tyson also produces processed foods and animal feeds. Its chicken operations are vertically integrated. The company hatches eggs, supplies contract farmers with chicks and feed and processes the chickens. Former chairman Don Tyson is the controlling owner of the company, which is headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas.

In the fiscal year ending in September of 2009, the company reported sales of approximately $26.7 billion dollars and had 117,000 employees.[1]

Overview & history

John Tyson, Sr. started Tyson Feed and Hatchery in 1935. His son, Donald John Tyson joined the company in 1952 and helped to fend off a take over bid by the Swanson Company. The company changed its name to Tyson Foods after it was taken public in 1963. Donald John Tyson took over the company after the death of his father in 1967. The company has expanded mainly through acquisition. Tyson became the the world's largest poultry and red meat provider after buying out Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) in 2001. [2] Tyson controls 27% of all meat and poultry sales in the U.S. One out of every four pounds of chicken, beef and pork consumed in the U.S. is a Tyson product. It is the largest poultry processing company in the U.S. with 59 plants and 50,000 employees. [3]

Brands under the Tyson parent company include Iowa Ham, Kettle Cooked Foods, ITC, Jordan's, Russer, Wright, Lady Aster, Tastybird, Weaver and Nature's Farm organic chicken. Tyson is also a major supplier of restaurant chains, including McDonalds [4] and Kentucky Fried Chicken.[5], [6]

Employee & human rights issues

Safety violations & workplace fatalities

In 1998 Tyson amassed 46 serious safety violations "indicating substantial probability of death or serious injury". In 1999, seven Tyson employees were killed in workplace related incidents. No other workplace fatalities in poultry plants were reported that year by other companies. In July of 1999 at the Robard, Kentucky plant; James Dame, Jr. and Mike Hallum fell into an open pit of decomposing chicken parts and suffocated from methane gas. In October of 1999 at the Berlin, Maryland plant; Charles Shepherd died from head trauma after a fall in the chiller room. There were also two workplace fatalities at the Harrisonburg, Virginia poultry plant. In addition, two workers died from electrocution at Tyson chicken houses in 1999. In February of 2000, Tyson's Henderson, Kentucky complex was fined an unprecedented $269,000 by Kentucky's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for 73 serious health and safety violations. Other safety violations include: $139,500 in fines by Kentucky OSHA for confined space violations in the Robards plant and $22,000 by Maryland OSHA for violation of the lock-out standard at Tyson's Berlin facility. [7]

Strikes

For almost one year, from February 2003 to January of 2004, workers at Tyson's Jefferson Wisconsin plant went on strike after the company demanded huge cuts in wages, insurance and retirement benefits. The strike ended only after workers accepted a sub-standard agreement. A UFCW members strike shut down a Tyson plant for over two months in Corydon Indiana after Tyson demanded the elimination of paid breaks, reduction of overtime rates and the gutting of union contract protections. Workers picketed and won living wages and decent working conditions. In the fall of 2005, thousands of workers went on strike at the company's Brooks, Alberta plant for three weeks; after waiting over a year for their first contract. Demands were for basic human rights and workplace safety. [8]

Workers assaulted by Tyson management

Over 600 Sudanese immigrants were lured to Alberta, Canada with promises of good jobs at Tyson. However, they soon became acquainted with Tyson's disregard for workplace safety for both immigrants and native workers. Picket lines went up on October 12, 2005 after Tyson Foods threw out a proposal by a mediator appointed by the government of Alberta. Demands included: an end to harassment, improved safety training and better handling of biological hazards. According to Joseph T. Hansen, International President of United Food and Commercial Workers:

"UFCW members and Tyson workers in the United States stand firmly in support of our Canadian brothers and sisters as they stand up against Tyson’s greed. We are committing every resource available to support our striking workers in Alberta on the front lines against Tyson’s inexcusable greed."

During the strike, provincial law enforcement officers stood by as replacement workers and management physically and verbally assaulted Sudanese workers with racial and anti-immigrant insults. It was reported that several strikers were beaten with metal pipes and left injured in a ditch before being taken to the hospital. [9]

Exploitation & harassment of foreign employees

According to of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Tyson’s operations in both the U.S. and Canada follow their typical pattern of keeping wages low, cutting benefits and reducing workplace standards; particularly for immigrants. According to President Joseph T. Hansen:

"Tyson recruits workers from all over the world to bring them to work in their North American operations in a race to the bottom. Exploitation of a vulnerable immigrant workforce is part of their business plan."[10]

Tyson plant recognizes Muslim Holiday

In the fall of 2007, Tyson allowed workers at a single plant to trade the traditional Labor Day for a Muslim religious holiday. This change was a result of a union contract negotiation. [11]

Animal welfare issues

PETA investigation of Tyson Foods. - 2007

Slaughter houses

Slaughterhouse workers known as "knockers", stun cows by driving a steel bolt into it's head. Other workers hang the cow by its hoof from chains and slit its jugular vein. According to the law, the animal must have bled to death before it proceeds down a disassembly line to be skinned eviserated and dismembered. However, according to a slaughterhouse worker in a Wallula, Washington, the IBP (now owned by Tyson) plant, cattle are processed so quickly that they are still conscious. According to an affidavit, "10% to 30% of animals at the IBP plant proceed through the skinning and dismemberment process in a fully conscious state." Workers are kicked by frantic animals, suffer contusions, serious stab wounds and loss of fingers and teeth. Workers have videotaped struggling animals being skinned alive while hanging from chains. [12]

Fowl, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are not protected under any laws regarding farm animals, including humane slaughter. [13], [14] Fully conscious chickens and turkeys are shackled by their ankles upside-down to a moving conveyor belt. The birds are then given intensely painful electric shocks, which are intended to immobilize and make it easier to slit their throats. (Often the shocks fail to render them unconscious). After being shocked, their throats are slashed by a mechanical blade. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds, who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), millions of birds per year are submerged in scalding water (about 143° F) while fully conscious. [15], [16] According to Virgil Butler, a former Tyson slaughterhouse worker:

"When this happens, the chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads. Then, they often come out the other end with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because they've struggled so much in the tank." [17]

Kentucky Fried Chicken & McDonalds

A campaign sponsored by PETA called "Kentucky Fried Cruelty", has pressured KFC to drop Tyson Foods as its supplier, due to it's abusive animal practices and resistance to reforms.[18], [19]

In May of 2005, two animal welfare experts resigned after being asked to sign an agreement barring them from speaking publicly on such issues as animal slaughter. Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Ian Duncan stepped down from YUM! Brands animal welfare committee after being sent an agreement requiring them to refer all media inquiries to KFC corporate headquarters. YUM! Brands is the parent company of KFC. [20] See also YUM! Brands.

PETA has long campaigned against McDonald's lack of animal welfare standards, which violate even minimal government standards. After two years of frustrating discussions, PETA launched its international McCruelty to Go campaign in 1999.[21], [22]

"Federal standards require that 100 percent of cows be fully stunned before they are skinned, but (according to) a McDonald’s training video ...it’s acceptable if five cows in every 100 are conscious while skinned and dismembered." [23] See also McCruelty to Go.

Cruelty investigation in Heflin, Alabama

In 2004/05, PETA conducted an undercover investigation in a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Heflin, Alabama.[24]

Cruelty investigations in Georgia & Tennessee

In separate investigations in 2007, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) documented workers urinating in the "live hang" area and on the conveyor belt that carried birds to slaughter. Other abuses included breaking legs and wings, throwing birds against shackles, breaking a chickens back by beating it on a rail, stabbing birds in the neck and shackling birds by the neck instead of the legs. The investigation also documented supervisors who were either directly involved or refused to enforce animal welfare policies. For example, a supervisor was recorded telling the investigator that ripping the heads off live birds was acceptable. Another refused to intervene when after birds became trapped at the end of the conveyor belt and when birds were cut at the body (instead of the throat). Abuse was was documented at both the Georgia and Tennessee plants. [25]

Statement from Tyson

In January of 2008, Tyson announced an investigation led by Dr. Kelley Pfalzgraf, manager of Tyson’s "Office of Animal Well-Being". According to Tyson's press release:

"We train our workers on proper animal handling practices. In fact, workers who do not follow company policy in this area are subject to disciplinary action, including termination of employment. If the investigations into this matter determine some of our Team Members have acted inappropriately, they will be disciplined or discharged. We believe we know the identity of the PETA supporter who posed as a worker to take undercover video. This person was employed at each plant for about a month last year and signed a document confirming he had completed the company’s animal welfare training program. The training emphasizes that workers must immediately tell management of any animal abuse they observe." [26]

According to PETA, its operative "complained constantly to his superiors about the abuse." [27] Documentation included video footage footage of allegations and supervisors ignoring or endorsing animal cruelty. [28]

See also animals raised & hunted for food.

Contract farms

Tyson breeds and hatches chicks through its Cobb-Vantress division, which it resells to nearly 7,000 contract farmers, so-called "Tyson family farms", who also purchase feed from Tyson. These contractors then sell grown chickens back to the company. Though "nominally independent", they are in fact under Tyson's thumb. Tyson also owns and leases breeding sow farms and "finishing farms", where mature hogs are fattened. This model is becoming similar to their contract chicken farms. Cattle ranchers, who have traditionally been more independent; fear being forced into the same dependency. [29]

Sierra Club "Ten Least Wanted" list

In 2002, Tyson Foods made the Sierra Club's "Ten Least Wanted" list.

Just weeks after the second-largest beef recall in history, the Sierra Club released a report on hundreds of criminal and civil violations of America's largest corporate factory farms. The Rap sheet documented convictions for animal cruelty, bribery, records destruction, fraud, worker endangerment and pollution.

"Despite repeated violations of environmental and public health laws, many of the companies highlighted in the Rap Sheets continue to receive millions of dollars every year from the School Lunch Program and other federal food assistance programs." [30]

Corporate controlled food supply

In early 2009, corporations like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Sodexo and Tyson Foods wrote and sponsored "food safety" bills which, according to critics; hand control and policing of food to factory farms and corporations. They point out that bills impose industrial, anti-farming "standards" to independent farms. Also, that they subject those who do not use chemicals and fertilizers to severe penalties, which apply even to producers growing food for their own consumption. The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009: HR 875 [31] was introduced by Rosa DeLauro, whose husband (Stanley Greenburg) works for Monsanto. According to critics, the bill includes criminalization of seed banking, prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers; 24 hour GPS tracking of their animals and warrentless government entry. [32], [33]

Political contributions

Tyson Foods gave $$170,960 to federal candidates in the 2010 election period through its political action committee (PAC) - 51% to Democrats, 49% to Republicans. [34]

Public relations & lobbying

Tyson Foods spent $$1,823,476 on lobbying in 2010. $495,000 went to three outside lobbying firms with the remainder being spent using in-house lobbyists. Lobbying firms used were Breaux Lott Leadership Group ($315,000), Raffaniello & Associates ($90,000), and Jack L. Williams (90,000).[35]

Center for Consumer Freedom

Tyson uses deep pockets to finance front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), while staying out of the lime light and protecting their corporate image. CCF runs attack campaigns against health, food safety, animal rights and animal welfare advocates. [36]

Cargill, Pilgrim's Pride, Tyson Foods and two other "fresh meat" companies with major Arkansas operations donate at least $100,000 a year to CCF, according to documents obtained by PR Watch in 2003. Tyson confirmed financial support, but refused to elaborate on amounts or future donations. See also CCF selected campaigns.

Tyson is also member of the American Meat Institute and the Meat Promotion Coalition.

Finances

Donald John Tyson (former CEO & Chairman)

While Tyson is a public company, 80% of the voting stock is held by Donald John Tyson, the (former) CEO, Chairman and son of founder, John Tyson, Sr. [37]

According to a June of 2004 article by Eric Schlosser in The Nation, Don Tyson was paid $20.9 million in the year 2003. During a period of time when his company was demanding wage and benefit cuts from impoverished meat packing workers, Don Tyson's annual compensation nearly tripled. His corporate perks finally attracted the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which launched a formal investigation. During an interview with Deborah Norville on May 26, 2004, he outlined his personal theory of labor management:

"One must have a moral compassion or a moral anchor; You have to serve the people that work for you...and in effect become a servant to the people that work for you."

This was said with a straight face. [38] Don Tyson, 78, retired as Sr. Chairman of the Board in 2001, after serving since 1952. According to Forbes, he is one of the 400 richest persons in the U.S., with a net worth of approximately one billion dollars (and growing). He passed the company reins to son John Tyson, Jr. in 2000, but still enjoys company perks. Don Tyson has paid over $2 million in SEC fines for misleading disclosure of personal benefits. [39]

Staff & board

Executives & officers

  • Donnie Smith - President & CEO
  • James Lochner - COO
  • Dennis Leatherby - Executive VP & CFO
  • Mike Baker - Senior VP, International
  • Howell P. Carper - Group VP, Research & Development, Logistics & Technical Services
  • Gary Cooper - Senior VP & CIO
  • Richard A. Greubel, Jr. - Group VP & International President
  • Craig J. Hart - Senior VP, Controller & CAO
  • R. Read Hudson - VP, Associate General Counsel & Secretary
  • Donnie D. King - Group VP, Refrigerated & Deli
  • Kenneth J. Kimbro - Senior VP, Human Resources
  • Bernard F. Leonard - Group VP, Food Service
  • Sara Lilygren - Senior VP, External Relations
  • Archie Schaffer III - Executive VP, Corporate Affairs
  • David L. Van Bebber - Executive VP & General Counsel
  • Jeff Webster - Group VP, Tyson Renewable Products Group
  • Ruth Ann Wisener - Vice President, Investor Relations & Assistant Secretary [40]

Board members

Contact

Tyson Foods
2200 Don Tyson Pkwy.
Springdale, AR 72762
U.S.A.

Phone: 479-290-4000

Fax: 479-290-4061
[42]

Web address: http://www.tyson.com/

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Company Description: Tyson Foods, Hoovers, accessed February 2010
  2. Donald John Tyson: Forbes 400 Richest Americans, Forbes, accessed February 2009
  3. Tyson Foods: Overview, United Food & Commercial Workers Union, accessed May 2009
  4. Steve Hannaford Oligopoly profile: Tyson Foods, Oligopoly Watch, updated September 2007
  5. Kentucky Fried Cruelty: Cruelty USA, PETA.org, accessed January 2011
  6. Tyson Workers Torturing Birds, Urinating on Slaughter Line, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed January 2011
  7. Tyson Foods: Overview, UFCW, accessed May 2009
  8. Tyson Foods: Overview, UFCW, accessed May 2009
  9. Tyson Foods Force Thousands of Workers onto Picket Lines in Alberta, Canada: Racist Jeers and Attacks Targeted at Striking Immigrant Workers, UFCW, Press room, October 2005
  10. Tyson Foods Force Thousands of Workers onto Picket Lines in Alberta, Canada: Racist Jeers and Attacks Targeted at Striking Immigrant Workers, UFCW, Press room, October 2005
  11. Tyson Foods: Muslim Holiday In Shelbyville, Labor Day Recognized, Hulaq News, August 2008
  12. David Case Investigation: Food That's not Safe to Eat, Erics Echo, accessed January 2011
  13. Factory Farming Campaign: Eating for Animals, Humane Society of the United States, accessed February 2009
  14. David J. Wolfson Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systemic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food or Food Production, Farm Sanctuary, 1999
  15. Meat and Poultry Inspection Manual, Part 11, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  16. Chickens Condemned Postmortem in USDA inspected establishments, Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS), USDA, 2001
  17. Chickens and turkeys: bred for pain, Mercy for Animals, accessed January 2011
  18. Kentucky Fried Cruelty: Cruelty USA, PETA.org, accessed January 2011
  19. Tyson Workers Torturing Birds, Urinating on Slaughter Line, PETA.org, accessed January 2011
  20. Nichola Groom Animal Experts Quit KFC Over Confidentiality Pact", Reuters/CorpWatch, May 5, 2005
  21. McCruelty: I'm Hatin It, PETA.org, accessed January 2011
  22. Lynn Truong The Cost of Meat—The Market Demand Argument: PETA vs. McDonald's, Wisebread, May 2007
  23. John Robbins, Old McDonald Had a Factory: Did Somebody Say McLibel?, Celsias.com, October 2007
  24. Tyson Workers Torturing Birds, Urinating on Slaughter Line, PETA.org, accessed January 2011
  25. Tyson Workers Caught Torturing Birds, Urinating on Slaughter Line, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  26. Tyson Office of Animal Well-Being examines bird handling allegations, Tyson, Press Release, January 2008
  27. Tyson probes PETA claim, Boston Globe, January 2008
  28. Is Georgia District Attorney Ignoring Cruelty at Tyson Slaughterhouse?, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  29. Steve Hannaford Oligopoly profile: Tyson Foods, Oligopoly Watch, updated September 2007
  30. Report and Online Database Document Animal Cruelty, Pollution Spills, Indiana Sierra, Fall 2002
  31. Text of H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, govtrack.us, accessed March 2009
  32. Linn Cohen-Cole Goodbye farmers markets, CSAs, and roadside stands, Oped News, March 2009
  33. Lydia Scott HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener, and violation of the 10th amendment, Campaign for Liberty, March 2009
  34. 2010 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed September 2011
  35. Tyson Foods lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed January 2011
  36. Adam Voiland Ten Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know, U.S. News and World Report, pg. 2, October 17, 2008
  37. Steve Hannaford Oligopoly profile: Tyson Foods, Oligopoly Watch, updated September 2007
  38. Eric Schlosser "Tyson's Moral Anchor", The Nation, June 24, 2004
  39. Donald John Tyson: Forbes 400 Richest Americans, Forbes, accessed February 2010
  40. Corporate Governance, Executives & Officers, Tyson Corporate, accessed February 2010
  41. Corporate Governance: Board of Directors, Tyson Corporate, accessed February 2010
  42. Company Description: Tyson Foods, Hoovers, accessed February 2010

External articles

External resources