USA – Tyson Foods has developed a contract for poultry farmers’ ‘bill of rights’, launching several new initiatives aimed at enhancing communications and transparency with the thousands of independent farmers who farm the company’s chickens.

The company also formed an advisory council made up of poultry farmers, investing in technology for additional communications.

The company supplies the birds, feed and technical advice, while the farmers provide the labour, housing and utilities.

It also pays more than US$800 million annually to more than 3,600 independent poultry farmers.

The average farmer has been raising chickens for Tyson Foods for 15 years and some families have been raising chickens for the company for three generations.

Highlights of the ‘bill of rights’ include: the right to join an association of contract poultry farmers, the right to a fixed length contract and the right to discuss their contract with outside parties.

“We value the farmers who raise our chickens and work hard to maintain good relationships with them, but also know we can do better.

That’s why we’re taking steps to enhance how we interact with them,” said Doug Ramsey, Tyson Foods group president for poultry.

The company is still working on the details regarding the initial advisory council as well as a process so that farmers who are interested may be able to potentially participate as members of the council.

Currently, there are six farmer-members from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina.

A poultry grower-specific website called Grow With Tyson has been in operation as a communications tool for contract farmers, but much of the information published on the site will soon be tied to a functional smartphone application that farmers will be able to download.

“The council will give growers the ability to communicate directly with top management of Tyson.

They are listening and very interested in our ideas as well as issues affecting growers,” said Johnny Simmons, one of the advisory council member-farmers.

Doug Ramsey added: “Two-way communication is key to any productive relationship.

The goal of the advisory council is to provide a platform where contract farmers can share their views of the business environment for raising chickens, while we can gather insights that might help us improve how we operate.”

“Farmers are the backbone of agriculture and the farmers we contract with are critical to our business.

We want them to know how much we appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to feed the world.

This announcement is one more way we want to say ‘thank you’.”

Earlier this week, Tyson, through its Tyson Ventures capital arm, lead a $2.2 million funding round in an Israeli start-up that aims to produce meat from animal cells.