As It Happens

U.S. poultry workers denied bathroom breaks, wear diapers at work: Oxfam report

Some poultry workers describe being reduced to wearing diapers on the production line because they are not permitted bathroom breaks, report says.
According to the report, poultry workers on the production line work on thirty-five to forty birds per minute. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer)

A new report from Oxfam says some employees in American poultry factories are regularly denied bathroom breaks, and as a result are reduced to wearing diapers on the production line. 

"It's this drive for production that these poultry companies have, where they're trying to churn out as much product as they can, as quickly as they can," says Oliver Gottfried, a senior advisor with Oxfam America. 
The Oxfam report, called "Lives On The Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken," describes the factories as dark, cold and foul-smelling. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer)
Gottfried describes the poultry plants as cold, dark and foul-smelling. He also says the wages, though slightly above mandated minimums, are not sufficient to support a family: "These are poverty level wages for full-time jobs." 
According to the report, almost all workers say that it's nearly impossible to take a break when working on the production line. (Earl Dotter/Oxfam America)
The report, called "Lives On The Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken," says workers stand on the line for four hours straight, and process around 35 to 45 birds per minute. From the report: "This means performing the same task on about one chicken every two seconds: more than 2,000 chickens per hour, more than 14,000 chickens per day." 
"Americans eat, on average, 89 pounds of chicken per year," says Oliver Gottfried of Oxfam America. (Oliver Gottfried/Oxfam America)

The report looks at Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim's Pride Corp., Perdue Farms Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc. Generally, those companies have responded by calling much of what is detailed in the report as incidents that are isolated and not in keeping with how their companies are run as a whole. 

For more on this story, take a listen to our full interview.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?