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Trouble at the Hen House

Randy Gilliland is one of 44 contract chicken farmers in six North Carolina counties who lost their contracts in October 2008. A surplus of chickens on the market and increasing feed prices caused major chicken companies to cut costs by reducing the size of farmers' flocks and also cutting the number of flocks per year from five to four. Also, in December he was also laid off from his job in Sanford, N.C., leaving him with four empty chicken houses and no steady income.

What happened to the chicken industry?

  1. A spike in fuel prices increased operating costs, causing a surge in demand for ethanol producing grain crops.
  2. The increased demand caused the price of grain crops to skyrocket, which made it more expensive to buy feed for chickens.
  3. Then, Russia, who is a major purchaser of U.S.-grown chicken, stopped purchasing it.
  4. This caused an excess of chicken on the market, raised on expensive chicken feed.

Bottom line - there were too many chickens on the market raised on high priced feed and nobody to buy them. The solution was to decrease the number of chickens being raised - not a good thing for North Carolina chicken farmers.

© 2009 Carolina Photojournalism | Credits