The Chicken, without an Egg

Dec 27, 2017

Poultry meat consumption is growing at an exceptional rate. According to FAO, it will overtake pork meat before 2020.

Main supplier of poultry meat in the world is reported to be coming from Thailand. [i]

This was not always the case, and when we look back to tipping points in the industry, we see that the market transformed since 1980 from rural production for domestic use, to industrial scale for export to international markets with the EU being its top importer.

Quick growth, without regulatory or industry ethics to keep it in check, has unfortunately seen an increase in environmental and people-ethics impacts.

High demand of the poultry farming has indicated a shortage of domestic labourers. Subsequently, it is reported that millions of migrant workers from mainly Cambodia and Myanmar have been attracted to work opportunities, however fallen victim to poor working environments, low wages and corrupt officials. [ii]

Migrant workers state that personal documents such as passports or work permits have been confiscated by their employers or recruitment agencies and placed in debt bondage. This is a very challenging market situation, which we have also personally seen a lot of in the cacao industry.

Research has shown that the companies are exempt themselves from ensuring that recruitment agencies act responsible, and do not take social responsibility themselves. Stakeholders (like international buyers or traders) involved in the import of poultry products from Thailand have been accused of not conducting meaningful due diligence on potential adverse human rights impacts in the industry.

ChangeMakers like us wonder where the tipping point for change needs to come from? Consumers need a campaign to demand transparency like we start to see in fashion? Or do consumers need to adjust their tastes for chicken? And what of the domestic markets for poultry production – how does it impact them? Finally, given the poor working conditions for workers, what do we know of the welfare of the animals involved?

Something, we will be following up on during our next visit to Thailand and the region.