Chicken Feed and other Scratch
In 1966, highway US 45, running between Rantoul and Chicago, used to be lined with egg ranches; I believe that some of them are still there: they appeared to be independent and prosperous.
A similar sight may be observed along the border between Oklahoma and Arkansas as you drive from Fort Smith south toward Broken Bow, Idabel, and the Piney Woods along US 59/259/270/271. The difference is that few of these chicken ranches are prosperous, and many are for sale. Here’s your big chance to become a capitalist and own your own ranch.[i]
Some of these chicken ranchers actually own their own land free and clear. Still an eighth to a quarter section (80 to 160 acres) is only worth about $80,000 to $160,000 depending on how much water you have rights-to, and other factors. Still, that area gets a lot of rainfall compared to Guymon, Elk City, or Altus.
The next big step to capitalistic paradise is to own all your chicken barns, grain bins, and other construction free and clear. If you get that far you might have half a chance of survival. At least you can honestly consider yourself a capitalist, for all that such a claim is worth.
I do not for one minute believe that very many of these chicken ranchers are not already leveraged from the tip of their roof tops to the bottom of their wells on every square foot of land and every square inch of barn. These folks can in no way be considered capitalists: they don’t own anything.
Such chicken ranches function on the open floor plan; not on cages. The floor consists of dirt and hay. The hay retains the ammonia from the chicken waste. The ammonia suppresses coccidiosis and reduces the need for antibiotics in the feed. Chicks are beaked to keep them from pecking each other to death. Edible chicken production from the chick is reached in eight to twelve weeks. Egg production takes much longer.
These things are not the core of the business problem. The core of the business problem is that the “independent” chicken ranchers are under iron-clad contracts with the chicken producer monopoly. The chicken producer, by contract, provides all feed, provides the supply of all new baby chicks, receives all egg and finished adult poultry production; operates the slaughter/butchering facility; controls packaging, delivery, and marketing; and determines all prices. From A to Z the chicken rancher is the indentured slave of the chicken producer monopoly, whether he/she owns land and buildings of not.
Incidentally, the organization of hog production has been following similar lines.
Now, how on earth can such a master/slave relationship be considered free enterprise, be considered capitalism, be considered ownership. The chicken producer monopoly literally owns the chicken rancher lock, stock, and barrel… well, maybe the chicken rancher owns his own lock.
The whole point of this discussion is to show that, what at first glance appears to be a glowing example of American freedom and capitalism: is, in fact nothing of the sort. Leverage to the chicken producer monopoly and thence to the bank removes every possibility of capitalism’s existence.