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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Whistleblower Sues Second Largest U.S. Poultry Company

Food Integrity Campaign | October 29, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON –On October 25, Government Accountability Project filed an historic complaint against Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (“Pilgrim’s) on behalf of whistleblower Eric Hedrick and his business, Triple R Ranch, LLC. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Lawsuits against the poultry industry are notoriously hard for farmers to win. Unlike other complaints against the poultry industry, this complaint seeks to hold Pilgrim’s responsible for violating the Agricultural Fair Practices Act. After blowing the whistle on injustices in the industry at a government hearing in 2010, Hedrick experienced retaliation in the form of a marked decrease in the quality of birds he received from the company, along with other forms of abuse. The whistleblower stated,

“We are filing this suit in hopes that the courts will recognize the abuses suffered by farmers at the hands of corporate agriculture. If this is not done there will be no future for farmers in this country.  We hope no one else has to suffer the financial and emotion losses we have suffered.”

Hedrick worked for Pilgrim’s as an independent contract farmer, raising chickens for slaughter and sale. Pilgrim’s, like most chicken and many pork operations, uses a method of industrial farming known as “contract growing.” In this model, companies control all of the inputs, including the food and animals. The farmers who “grow” the animals for the company are paid a pittance for the flock yield and often go into debt trying to meet firms’ strict demands. With no power to negotiate, contract farmers have little to no say about how their operations are run, and it’s especially risky for them to speak out when they have concerns. Indeed, companies like Pilgrim’s turn farmers like Hedrick into de facto sharecroppers.

Although independent contract farmers face ongoing challenges, Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director stated, “We are optimistic that there will be justice for Eric Hedrick and for future contract farmers.”

Contact: Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director

Email: amandah@whistleblower.org

Phone: 202-457-0034 ext. 159

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C

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