The Biden administration takes aim at Big Chicken. But its goose might not yet be cooked

This article features Government Accountability Project’s client, Dallas McClendon, and was originally published here.

As consumers chafe at growing food price inflation, the Biden administration is pointing a finger at some of the country’s largest meat companies, suggesting pandemic profiteering may be responsible for the steep rise in the prices of beef, pork and poultry.

Farmers Trina McClendon and her son, Dallas, raise about 800,000 chickens annually through a contract with Sanderson in Gillsburg, Miss. Dallas McClendon said the day after the Cargill purchase was announced, Sanderson told the McClendons they would be paid less per flock, a loss of about $70,000 a year, Dallas McClendon said.

He said his mother refused to sign this contract and Sanderson management wrote that “grower refused to sign.” She asked for a written explanation of the pay decrease and was told it had to do with demographics in Mississippi — the market for chicken, the hurricane and the pandemic were all factors. The new price dropped below pre-pandemic prices, Dallas McClendon said.

He said there were 60 growers in Mississippi who did not sign their contracts. He and his mother, as well as three other growers he knows, were placed on smaller birds after not signing. “Tray pack” birds are the kind that end up as cut-up grocery store pieces and they command a lower price.

“It seemed like punishment or retaliation,” Dallas McClendon said.