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Costco opening a $440M chicken farm to escape America's chicken monopoly (cnbc.com)
380 points by jseliger 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 277 comments

Watching several documentation and seeing chicken farms, I Never buy USD 5 chickens anymore. I buy only organic (more time to grow) and if available from my preferred supplier from the farmer’s market (she only slaughters 5 times a year and grows different breeds). My nephew from the US came over and was shocked at the taste (I didn’t tell him about the price as he would probably not eat it). Food prices are not a concern for me and I prefer to increase quality instead of quantity. I should anyway eat less.

Yeah I personally stopped buy chicken years ago for mostly ethical reasons but I think Costco getting into the chicken game will probably be a net positive.

Reason being that for one, Costco was one of the first grocers to start replacing items with Organic alternatives, and in general, they usually demands higher quality goods than other grocers. For example, compare the ingredient list for Delimex taquitos from Costco to your supermarket and it's basically half the size... or Campbell's "Simply" Chicken Noodle soup to what's sold at the grocer - again about half the ingredients. Even those $5 chickens Costco sells are antibiotic/hormone/steroid-free humane-certified Foster-Farms chickens.

Then there's employee treatment. Costco has a long history of being one of the better employers in the country. They pay their employees well, pay for people to attend college, don't require a lot of interaction with irate customers thanks to their no deadline any reason return policy and generally promote internally rather than hiring outsiders to leadership roles.

Compare that to the average chicken farmer who has to buy all of their own equipment that the big companies are constantly requiring them to update at their own expense, raise chickens they don't own like a horrific daycare center at very low return, all while being exposed to chemicals/drugs they're being forced to use and it's kind of a nightmare.

Costco cares about their brand image, their customers and their employees... I expect this will end up being a good thing.

If you eat meat, the most ethical thing you can do is eat Perdue chicken (assuming you're not going sustainable aquaculture seafood). Not organic, just regular. Because long before everyone else, they decided to do what they could to weed antibiotics out of their entire production chain.


As someone who grew up in the poultry pathology industry, there are three important metrics for commercial chicken meat production: (1) mortality rate (how many chickens die), (2) feed conversion ratio (how efficiently incoming feed is turned into usable meat), & (3) time to slaughter.

Everything else (price, environment impact) is a consequence of those figures or optimizations made to target them.

Perdue, long before it was trendy (~2002) decided for market and moral reasons they were going to reorganize their operations, and those of their suppliers, to apply pre-antibiotic husbandry best practices and limit antibiotic use.

It didn't save them money. Pre-emptive dosing with antibiotics is done precisely because it makes money (by decreasing loss / all cause mortality) -- if it didn't, no one would do it in the first place.

They didn't have to do this. Hell, most people didn't even care about antibiotics in animal production then.

But they did it because they thought there would be a market for it, because they thought it was possible, and because they thought it was the right thing to do.

Costco may be an ethical company, and they may be doing this for the right reasons, but they're following.

I'd rather reward someone who chose to lead in making the world a better place.

PS: There are other ecological reasons to prefer chicken if you're eating terrestrial meat, but I didn't want to ramble on. Suffice to say, the feed conversion ratio on chicken is incredible.

Just small correction it’s Perdue. I know common error here.

Fixed! Thanks for pointing it out.

If you eat meat and aren't willing to stop, you should eat cows instead of chickens.

1. Eating beef is far more ethical than eating chicken.

1a) There's some (non-zero) probability that meat cows have net positive lives, while I don't think anybody I respect ever suggested that the current conditions of broiler chickens are potentially positive.

1b) Cows are way over 100x heavier than chickens, which means you need 2+ orders of magnitude more suffering/dead chickens to supply the same amount of calories from eating chickens as eating (potentially even net positive) cows. 1c) The environmental harms of different meat animals is far smaller than either the direct ethical costs or the financial costs. You can look into carbon offsetting for example.

2.You might think that you have no moral imperative to create net positive lives, only to avoid really bad cases of animal abuse. I assure you that really bad cases of animal abuse do in fact happen. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/04/opinion/nicholas-kristof-...

3. You might believe that chickens are not sentient and do not have morally relevant experiences. This is a complicated topic but I would argue that even if you only have a 10% chance of chickens having morally relevant experiences (and 90+% that they don't is far from justified given the state of current evidence), not eating chicken is still the right thing to do under most reasonable models of uncertainty.

4) You may believe that sentience is not a morally relevant criteria, and that there's a form of Human Exceptionalism where morality is defined to be about humans. Perhaps you only care about the environment for its effect on humans. If this is the case, I will be shocked if personal diet for ecology reasons is "the most ethical thing you can do" to preserve the future of humanity.


In general, while I applaud attempts to do moral reasoning in taboo tradeoffs, I find reasoning that ignores the highest number of beings suspect. (I feel the same way when economists debate the cost-effectiveness of immigration while entirely skipping the impact on immigrants).

I don't go on HN often, so apologies if I don't respond to comments too quickly. Good luck with thinking this through clearly! :)

1ab) Based on my experiences, I am prepared to discount the mental suffering of broiler chickens. I would not do the same for cows (or pigs). This is based on my beliefs about their intelligence, coupled with their lifespans.

Would it impact your moral calculus if we artificially retarded broiler chicken's intelligence?

1c) To me, the carbon and land use impacts dominate the direct ethical costs. With a ~1:4 carbon footprint ratio of chicken:beef, and taking into account my (1ab) opinion, that's enough to offset the individual mind count concern.

2) I value animal life conditions in a net utilitarian manner. Providing humans sustenance and pleasure in the form of edible protein is weighed against animal conditions.

3) What are the consequences of making an incorrect decision that cause you to weigh the 10% so heavily?

4) Including the qualifying "if you eat meat" phrase in my quote and the context of the comment thread (organic, chemical / drug use), I think my statement is pretty clear. To expand, "If you eat meat, the most ethical thing you can do is support a chicken producer who attempted to eliminate mass-dosing with antibiotics from their entire production chain."


You'd probably be interested in Peter Singer (see updated copies of Animal Liberation) and the debate between absolute, preference, and hedonistic varieties of utilitarianism.

Is this the Perdue that just recalled chicken for having wood in it?


ColanR 3 months ago [flagged]

This feels a lot like an ad for Perdue (apologies if it isn't).

You've got me.

I've surreptitiously built a HN identity for years so that I could finally cash in on that sweet poultry guerilla marketing cash.

I got a similar hit on Wikipedia when I tried to start the article on a company, which happens to be a YC alum. I was just comparing VPS providers, I knew this company was in the space because of HN, and noted the hole in Wikipedia, so I started the article as a way to fill in my own knowledge. Ho. Lee. Sheeeit. There were some admins looking to grind serious axes about "commercial influence". Yet I was behaving more like Consumer Reports. Job got done, but wow.

I tried to limit the snark, because parent's not wrong. There's a ridiculous amount of astroturfing out there.

I haven't had too much experience with Wikipedia, but I absolutely believe your story. Their hierarchy is... interesting.

Do you remember when the world wasn't consumed with ads?

Pepperidge Farm remembers.

Costco does all these pro-consumer, pro-sustainability, and pro labor things while still undercutting everyone else on price. And they still make money hand over fist. It proves that every other company mistreating their livestock, filling their preserved goods with god-knows-what, or underpaying their staff is doing it out of pure profit motive rather than out of necessity to remain competitive.

Well, maybe -- Costco benefits from economies of scale and negotiation that don't exist for those smaller vendors. It doesn't cost everyone the same price to produce the same product.

Costco earns almost all of their profit from the membership fees and tries to keep all the product sales at break even pricing. Which makes their future precarious as the average member age is 50+, explaining the missing technology focus compared to say WalMart Labs or Amazon. They send Costco employees out to the farms to inspect every stage of the meat process, from raising the animals to the slaughter and packaging to ensure the quality. Disclosure: former IT employee at Costco HQ.

> And they still make money hand over fist.

That's a lot easier to do when you only carry a fraction of the UPCs that say, Walmart does.

Surely most retailers only carry a fraction of the UPCs as Walmart does. Amazon beats Walmart, but who else? Wikipedia estimates 120,000 items per Walmart location and 35 million sold by Walmarts online. In comparison, McMaster-Carr has 570,000 products. Walmart is huge.

The number of different SKUs is totally absurd.

As of right now my local supermarket (subsidiary of Kroger) has the following:

   Cheerios 12 oz
   Cheerios 18 oz family size
   Cheerios 20 oz giant size
I'm not talking about "honey nut", or "multi grain", or "cinnamon oat crunch", those three are just the basic Cheerios.

It's way beyond stupid. This idiocy is the fault of both the manufacturers and retailers.

I wonder if there would be a market for cereals in plain plastic bags kinda like rice and beans...

Just the same bag as the inside of that cheerios box in 3oz increments with a plain label.

They do. But people never look down at the bottom shelf of the grocery story.

My experience buying off-brand Cheerios is that the texture is very different: much crunchier. They're one of the few products where I don't just buy the cheap store brand version.

All the ethical and taste concerns aside, is that $5 chicken worse, better or about the same for feeding a hungry person? I am thinking of calories intake, potential medium/long term health advantages/disadvantages?

edit: was pointed to this Reuters[0] article which seems like a reasonable starting point.

[0] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-money-chicken-organic/is-...

My understanding (no sources) is that better treated chickens have:

- Fewer hormones for growth

- Fewer antibiotics (diseases spread rapidly in confined spaces)

- Higher quality meat (Chicken gets more exercise and movement, as well as increased quality of feed)

- Higher nutritional value (increased exercise and sunlight, potentially)

In terms of calories though, it's probably a wash, and more inefficient from calories/money.

edit: formatting

>Fewer hormones for growth

>Chicken gets more exercise and movement

Having raised chickens for meat on a small scale (30-40 at a time), I can tell you that chickens used for meat ("Broiler" chickens) are selectively bred to grow as big as possible as quickly as possible. There is no need for growth hormones, they grow so quickly that their bone structure cannot keep up, to the point that they are barely able to walk 8-12 weeks from hatching. If they are not slaughtered on time, they die from heart failure.

> If they are not slaughtered on time, they die from heart failure.

Wow, you weren't kidding. [1] I am not surprised that chickens have been bred to grow fast, but I've never heard of an animal that implodes because it grows so fast.


Similarly: industrial turkeys of the type that Americans buy for Thanksgiving are so heavy and their breasts are so large that they're physically no longer able to reproduce. (They use artificial insemination now.)

Modern Cornish crosses are a miracle of selective breeding (aka genetic engineering).

At this point, they're not far away from muscle growing machines with just enough brain attached to partially handle themselves.

Heh if you haven't heard you should check out Mike the headless chicken. That shows you how little brain chickens need.

Wow -- that is very fascinating !

Andre the Giant died of heart failure because he grew too fast

>- Fewer hormones for growth

The FDA bans hormones in all poultry production, companies advertising it are trying to fool you into thinking the opposite is possible, it isn't.

>- Fewer antibiotics

Zero antibiotics is very common among producers

The move to fungal sources is happening but zero antibiotics isn't common


The article doesn't really say one way or another whether it is uncommon. It also lazily veers back and forth between references to the poultry industry, and animal farms generally so I don't even think you make an inference.

Chickens are given neither hormones nor antibiotics.

It's been illegal to give chickens growth hormones for a long time. Most major chicken brands (Tyson and Purdue, who are #1 and 2 in terms of production) do not give chickens antibiotics, unless the flock gets sick. In that case, the flock is treated and then sold as a different product- usually either as pet food or an off brand.

I don't know why we use hormones and antibiotics for pork and beef but not chicken.

> - Fewer hormones for growth

This is a urban legend. Not sure if it was true at any point, but it is not the case.

Chickens were selectively bred to grow fast enough as it is, to the point that some breeds have a percentage of offspring lost. Try to make them grow any faster and more will die.

> - Higher quality meat (Chicken gets more exercise and movement, as well as increased quality of feed)

At least for cows (and most game), you don't want them to exercise too much or the meat won't be as tender. Is it different for chickens?

American preference for tenderness is marketing induced for economic reasons. Younger animals have more tenderness/less flavor and the faster meat grows, the younger you slaughter at. Also, marbling is prized because corn fed beef exhibits greater marbling than grass fed beef. By elevating tenderness & marbling above all else, even flavor, American manufacturers can align what consumers prize with what's cheaper to produce.

If you go to other beef obsessed countries in the world in South America, Europe and especially Asia, a certain degree of chew is considered desirable. Take Picanha from Brazil, Bistecca alla Fiorentina from Florence of Kalbi Short Ribs from Korea.

Marbling is prized because the fat gives a buttery flavor that people like. Look at Kobe beef in Japan, it is the most expensive, prized beef because the extreme marbling shows the highest fat content.

"At least for cows (and most game), you don't want them to exercise too much or the meat won't be as tender. Is it different for chickens?"

There tends to be a flavour/tenderness tradeoff. So you'll tend to get more flavour from more used muscles. (eg chicken breast v thigh)

That said, the average battery hen could do a hell of a lot more exercise and still not be tough.


This is the saddest comment I've ever read on HN.

It's just the reality of eating something - you're not doing them or their species any favor by eating them and selectively breeding them to make the ones that taste best or produce the most meat. These are both the case no matter how you approach it, all "ethics" are at best a stretch here, if you don't like it, don't eat meat, it's a much better solution than paying some company to call you a good person.

I know I'm not winning any brownie points here, but I think it's important to be realistic in your moral assessments.

It's disingenuous to say that if one cares about animals they must not eat them.

> it's a much better solution than paying some company to call you a good person.

If you can afford to and understand the terrible conditions of battery chicken, but wish to still eat meat, then one choice is morally better. It's unrealistic to think otherwise. Signaling intention with your purchase decisions is real. Not eating meat is of course the better solution, but is again an unrealistic expectation to have for many people.

You seem unable to tolerate incremental improvement. Why is that?


Antibiotics are used to make animals grow faster and bigger not to make them well.


The antibiotics are needed because they're so poorly treated. The chickens wouldn't get sick if they weren't packed into battery farms. The antibiotics aren't always necessary either, it's just more profitable to have the animal spend less energy fighting illness that it would otherwise have survived.

In the dairy industry, for example, organic milk would mean you have to either let the cow die if they get sick, or give it antibiotics, cure it, and then send it to the slaughterhouse as you can't milk that cow anymore, worse still you give the cow antibiotics and continue to milk it thereby making the milk worse than "normal milk", because you don't want to lose money.

That's why organic isn't always the most ideal.

The slaughterhouse is hardly the only option.


> On an organic farm, once that animal receives antibiotics, she is no longer considered an organic animal. Rather than rejoining her organic herd, she will join a traditional herd of cows that may have received antibiotics during their lives.

Traditional herds exist because there remains a large non-organic market.

The more popular the organic religious dietary code becomes, the least viable traditional herds are.

Where did you get the idea that the regulation of "organic" labeling prevents treating sick animals? To my knowledge it is not true.

It does not prevent treatment, but if treated with antibiotics, that animals milk will never there after be organic. Thems the rules.

That is insane that that is the case here in the US. ( and I just checked as I could not believe it).

In Europe it’s different - https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/eu-policy/eu-rules-...

“When the animals are ill, chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary and under strict conditions. This is only allowed when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate.”

Aside from the growth hormones which can be avoided, chickens suffer ftom contagious transmissible diseases even in exurban settings (few chickens, lots of space), so they must ne administered antibiotics to fend of diseases and collapse of the brood.

The issue with antibiotics in farming is that they may be used to contrast unhealthy conditions.

If your chicken don't get sick because they have free roaming space and don't peck each other and so on you don't need antibiotics.

> they have free roaming space and don't peck each other and so on

Chickens are assholes no matter the square footage.

I think that's a bit unfair, just because we haven't bred all of their instinctual behaviour out of them.

chicken contact lenses (to reduce aggression) was one of my favorite business case studies: https://gohighbrow.com/optical-distortion-aka-the-chicken-co...

i won't spoil the punchline (it's not obvious from first blush).

Someone made a website for it too: https://www.opticaldistortion.com/

awesome but how do I learn more about this? Both links from that page are dead -_-

if you want the punchline, this quora answer has it (SPOILER ALERT): https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-useful-Harvard-Busine...

otherwise you can search for “ODI optical distortion business case” to find sites that have the setup and various attempts at analyzing/answering the case.

Tyson doesn’t use any antibiotics, Purdue says they used less than 5%, and most of the rest don’t use them.

Anecdotally, those $5 Costco chickens are bigger than competitors' $6.49 rotisserie chickens

Costco sells its rotisserie chickens at a loss.

Organic food is negligibly different from non-organic food and is generally worse for the environment because of the additional resources required for it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PmM6SUn7Es

If you're optimizing for caloric intake and health advantages, I'd recommend looking into eating plants (and fungi). Plants are always more efficient than animals for caloric and nutrient intake because animals burn the calories they eat before you eat the animals.

You may be interested in: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed_conversion_ratio

This is simply not true and one of the many lies vegan activists tell. If you are optimizing for calorie and health, you eat a mix of meat, vegetables, fruits, etc ( aka a balanced diet ). Plants require far more effort for the same amount of energy.


If plant diet was optimizing for caloric intake and health advantages, most human societies would have been vegan. But no human society throughout human existence and pre-human existence were vegan because plant diet isn't optimal.

It's also why vegans tend to be lethargic, lose bone mass, teeth rot, joint pains, have trouble concentrating, etc. It's why vegans have to take tons of supplements to even stay alive and while doing so do long term damage to their bodies.

Balanced diet folks. It's something humans have been designed to eat since human existence. Not only does your body need it, it also helps with your gut biodiversity which helps prevent anxiety, depression, etc.


>If plant diet was optimizing for caloric intake and health advantages, most human societies would have been vegan. But no human society throughout human existence and pre-human existence were vegan because plant diet isn't optimal.

Caveat: I'm a huge meat eater. Love the stuff. Can't stop won't stop.

BUUUTTTT the natural fallacy has to die. Just because we did something for the last N millennia doesn't make it worthy of continuation.

You might be falling for the "fallacy fallacy" (I'm assuming it's called that!). Just because something is a fallacy didn't mean the fallacious conclusion is false. So, the Natural[istic] fallacy says "it's natural, this is better", but whilst that reasoning is fallacious it doesn't mean that the specific natural thing (in the current focus "eating a balanced diet") isn't nonetheless better, despite the unsound argument.

Just in case. Many people think that a fallacy existing is proof of the contrary position, or at least they speak/argue/type as if that is the case.

The corollary of course is that despite the apparent fallacious reasoning you could be right.

So... we'll call it a draw?

You misread my comment. The natural fallacy is the one vegans claim. Not me. The vegan claim is that we are naturally vegans and have been duped into being meat eaters. And I'm debunking it.

And my point wasn't that we should do something just because it's been done before. My point is that if veganism was "natural and optimal", then why hasn't any human society in history adopted it? Because humans cannot survive on a vegan diet without supplements.

In other words, my point is that if the vegan assertion that "veganism is the optimal natural human diet" ( aka what humans were meant to eat ), why has no human society ever adopted it and why can't humans survive on a vegan diet in nature.

> My point is that if veganism was "natural and optimal", then why hasn't any human society in history adopted it? Because humans cannot survive on a vegan diet without supplements.

I don't know if that's true. We may not have been able to supply the amount of vegetation required to keep a human being upright and functional a millennia ago, but now that we live in the age of abundance, with food diversity that's unprecedented that may not be an issue at all. We can artificially create a complete diet of strictly plant matter with intelligent choices.

> We can artificially create a complete diet of strictly plant matter with intelligent choices.

That's very hard to distinguish from supplements. Some nutrients are hard to find in useful quantities in plants, so you need a ton of them. The most practical approach is to extract and put them in a pill. Supplements. Nothing wrong with it.

> The natural fallacy is the one vegans claim. Not me. The vegan claim is that we are naturally vegans and have been duped into being meat eaters.

I think when somebody asserts x is the best diet because x is what we have been doing for thousands of years, x most often includes eating meat. There is a whole diet based around this idea called the Paleo diet. It may very well be the most popular diet of the last 5 years.

The only time I can recall it being asserted that veganism was the historic human diet, it was by a total quack YouTube personality. Veganism was also tangential to this claim; the claim was that the diet should be 100% figs.

> It's also why vegans tend to be lethargic, lose bone mass, teeth rot, joint pains, have trouble concentrating, etc. It's why vegans have to take tons of supplements to even stay alive and while doing so do long term damage to their bodies.

This is simply not true and one of the many lies anti-vegan activists tell.

This is anecdotal of course; I've been vegan for 20 years and have never taken supplements. I'm skinny, but my bone density and concentration are fine.

I've never had a cavity in my life. I'm not super old yet, but I don't think I have any joint issues beyond what comes with being nearly 50.

The efficacy of supplements isn't even established as reliable in many cases.

Porpiosly's comments on this seem quite extreme. I suggest others reading this do their own research or consult with their personal physicians before altering their diet in a significant way.

If it isn't true, why do vegans have to supplement their diets with tons of pills? Also, I was a vegan for while, so I know all the lies.

Can you show me one vegan that doesn't take supplements?

> If it isn't true, why do vegans have to supplement their diets with tons of pills?

They don't. All you need to supplement is B12, and that's one small pill a day to take.

If you're interested in the background, find some information e.g. here: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/vitamin-b12/

They do have to take supplements, of course. It's their prerogative.

It's much harder to have a balanced diet eating only plants. You can't easily compete against organisms that only eat plants, and have been collecting all the nutrients, for their entire existence, for you.

Humans are adapted to eat from both plants and animal sources. Take away one source, and you have to adapt.

The only supplement vegans and vegetarians need to take is B-12. The rest comes from having a varied and balanced plant based diet. Something interesting to note is that many people, regardless of diet, are at least somewhat deficient in B-12 and should supplement. And the meat that contains B-12 usually comes from supplementing the feed given to livestock with B-12.

Where do you get this? What supplements do vegans need to take? B12... that’s literally it. And B12’s unavailability in a vegan diet is only because of modern cleanliness practices. B12 is produced by bacteria, and can be found in streams and rivers just fine, if you’re into that sort of thing.

> Plants require far more effort for the same amount of energy.

I'm confused as to what you mean here. Do you mean the energy required to produce plant foods is higher than the energy required to produce animal foods? If so, this seems self-evidently false: all edible calories start out as plant calories, and we can either eat the plants or have animals eat the plants (wasting a bunch of the input energy along the way) and then eat the animals. Or do you mean the effort to prepare the plant foods is higher? If so... maybe? But that'll inherently be subjective and depend on what people want to eat. Certainly, meat-free prepared foods are not difficult to find, at least in the US.

> But no human society throughout human existence and pre-human existence were vegan because plant diet isn't optimal... Balanced diet folks. It's something humans have been designed to eat since human existence.

I don't think many vegans argue that humans were designed to eat only plants (many would dispute that humans were designed at all), but looking at historical societies isn't that useful; advances in agricultural technology have made eating a healthy vegan diet more feasible than it used to be, so the fact that it wasn't practical to do 100 years ago or 1000 years ago or whatever isn't very interesting. In the here and now, it is possible, and there's plenty of peer-reviewed research suggesting that the optimal amount of red meat, in particular, to consume, is none (it's carcinogenic), that animal fat of any kind isn't great either, and that people who reduce or eliminate consumption of these foods while still maintaining adequate caloric and nutrient intake have reduced all-cause mortality.

In any event, many vegans would also argue that even if it wasn't possible to eat vegan historically, the fact that it is now means that we should, for reasons of ethics/animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

> It's also why vegans tend to be lethargic, lose bone mass, teeth rot, joint pains, have trouble concentrating, etc.

Citation needed?

> It's why vegans have to take tons of supplements to even stay alive and while doing so do long term damage to their bodies.

The only nutrient that only occurs naturally in animal sources is B12. It's true that vegans generally need to get their B12 either from supplements or fortified foods, but the technology for that exists, so there's no real downside here.

Other than that, many vegans choose to get other nutrients from supplements or fortified foods because it's easier than planning a diet that includes all of them naturally. Omnivores do this too, though; we just don't think about it, because that diet is standard enough that it makes sense from a public health perspective to incorporate nutrient supplementation directly into the regular food supply so people don't have to think about it. That's why there's iodine in table salt, or vitamin D in milk. If everyone were vegan, we would do the same for nutrients that require special attention in vegan diets, but that says nothing inherent about veganism.

And I have no idea what that "long term damage" claim is about. There's nothing inherently dangerous about getting a nutrient in a capsule instead of in a steak.

Your link also suggests that having healthy gut flora is important (true), but doesn't support the case that you need to eat animals to achieve it, at least as far as I can tell.

> If so, this seems self-evidently false: all edible calories start out as plant calories, and we can either eat the plants or have animals eat the plants (wasting a bunch of the input energy along the way) and then eat the animals.

I'm no expert but I believe there may actually be some limited basis to that claim: ruminants can eat things we can't (grass) and there are areas where it's more ecological to grow grass and let ruminants eat it than try to grow things that we could process. You also get the benefit of better topsoil with the help of the animal dung.

But I think the (huge) majority of the meat we eat is fed grain, where we're obviously wasting energy.

Like you say, the fact that they're mostly grain-fed makes the grass-fed angle largely moot, but in a modern context, surely if it were for some reason necessary for humans to derive calories from grass, there would be more efficient ways to do so than by than by feeding them to a cow over a several-month-long period and then eating the cow (e.g., enzymatically or through fermentation).

> Plants require far more effort for the same amount of energy.

I'm curious about this one - what about things like corn and soybean? Those would seem pretty readily accessible in terms of pure caloric content.

> If you are optimizing for calorie and health, you eat a mix of meat, vegetables, fruits, etc ( aka a balanced diet ).

If that is so, why are all these people healing and getting healthier on an all-meat diet? http://meatheals.com

Humans don't have the cellulase enzyme necessary to digest cellulose, the primary component of vegetables. Cows and other grazing animals do, which is why they can efficiently use plants to gain energy and mass. Humans eat meat because we can not use the majority a plant's mass for energy or mass production. Some day maybe there will be a cellulase supplement or probiotic supplement that allows efficient veganism, but we're not there yet.

That's a terribly simplistic analysis. First, humans don't digest plants in the same way and won't get the same calories/nutrition out of the plants as a chicken/whatever. Second, feed for animals is significantly cheaper than the plants humans like to eat and what the stores sell them for.

Sure, if you could live eating chicken feed then it would certainly be cheaper to eat that instead of chicken for caloric intake. But to optimize for dollar nutritional value in food humans actually eat, it's pretty hard to beat the $5 chicken.

Animal agriculture has a lot of externalized costs, so that is one thing to think about when considering what type of diet would be optimal for society.

As for the present time, I agree that the retail price of meat and the nutrients offered makes it a pretty good deal.

I have several friends who claim to be socially and environmentally conscious but still get sucked in by the cheap baked chickens at the grocery store.

It's $5-6 bucks, seasoned, cooked, in a plastic container. You know there's no way that's a fair price, right?

Rotisserie chickens are often used as loss-leader. Here's one of many articles on the subject: https://www.wsj.com/articles/rotisserie-chickens-the-ninetie...

And the classic Priceonomics article: https://priceonomics.com/are-rotisserie-chickens-a-bargain/

Those are a loss leader, though. Those are chickens typically past the sell by date. Grocery stores actually take a loss on those, but they're appealing and convenient. People will pick them up during normal grocery shopping and have an easy meal.

They're probably not a loss leader at all, and they're unlikely to be part of what the grocery store normally stocks in terms of chickens.

If you look at most of the grocery store rotisserie chickens, they're roughly 2 pounds - 3 pounds at Costco, which is one of their selling points. At $5, you're paying $1.67-2.50/pound for the bird, a few cents worth of seasoning and oil, a plastic shell, labor and depreciation on the rotisserie equipment. The store is probably not paying even $1/pound for those small birds.

As for them being ones that the store was selling that were past their date, go look at whole chickens in the store some time. If you find any 2 pound birds I'd be very surprised - you're more likely going to see a minimum of 3.5 pounds, at least in the US. The store also wouldn't be cooking random-weight birds because it's going to be much harder to control for even cooking - you can't just throw a 4 pound bird that's approaching its sell by date into the oven with your 2 pound birds, it'll be raw inside when you pull the rest of the birds out.

Groceries are definitely making money on rotisserie chickens. They exist as a way to generate some incremental income at the deli counter by giving employees something to do in their down time.

They are high margin, but low volume. A fifty cent chicken, with a few cents worth of spices (mostly salt) and like three minutes of labor will sell for $5. Not including the additional revenue from sides and rolls.

Unfair to whom?

I've always thought that we need some sort of consumer 'geiger counter' where the user can scan a product and have some sort of objective criteria they can use to determine if they should buy/eat something.

They’ve been trying to bring in this kind of thing for years but industry having none of it

Mainly because there's no good way to do it... attempts have been made, but they're pretty dire devices that can barely achieve a surface level scan.

If you don't mind watching a YouTube video, this guy does a good job summing up the problems some have had:


There are plenty of good ways to do it, but the problem is there’s always going to be somebody that looses out. Of course none of those approaches are ”perfect” but even if somebody did come up with a perfect approach you can be certain that a bunch of issues will be manufactured overnight

Check the video out - those aren't "manufactured" issues - the reality is that such devices can only perform a surface level check at best - and even then, telling close things apart gets challenging. If you think you can do better, please explain how such a device could work?

It's quite simple: Coca Cola, Crisps, Mars Bars, Bacon, White Bread ... all these things you assign a red. Broccoli, Carrots, Nuts and Beans get a green. Everything in between gets orange. Pretty much all meats and dairy will end up in the orange segment which will upset this very powerful sector. The pork guys want you eating pork at every meal if possible.

It's pretty difficult to make something handheld that can scan beneath the surface layer. All of the kickstarter food scanners are crap.

Yeah... it's indentured servitude... chicken farmers take on millions in debt, and walk out with wages of $20-30K for 18 hour days x 7 days per week..

That doesn't make much sense. Someone in a position to invest millions (or take out millions in loans) would more likely be paying someone else wages to do the work, whether 18 hours or whatever. From what I hear contract poultry farming has become almost a turnkey sort of business. You contract with one of the poultry majors, they supply you with a lot of the supplies you need for whichever niche you occupy, and then basically guarantee buying your entire output.

>Yeah... it's indentured servitude

That phrase doesn't mean what you think it means. If you can declare bankruptcy, you can't be an indentured servant.

So you can get out at any time if you don't mind ruining your life in the process? I think the phrase is apt enough.

In the Philippines there is a chain of restaurants called Chicken Bacolod. The chicken is a bit smaller than the US but the taste is much better. I think that the chickens are allowed to eat bugs and root around in the dirt.

are you filipino?

Even the happy chickens get their heads cut off.

Why would you say organic chicken takes more time to grow? Organic has nothing to do with how long it takes to grow the chicken right?

The antibiotics fed to non-organic animals cause them to grow faster.

Are you sure about that?

Surprisingly, growth promotion is the original reason they were popularized: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/riots-rage-a...

Antibiotics don't cause animals to grow faster.... Please stop stating fake information as fact.

To be honest, although I prefer organic chicken for health and ethical reasons, mass produced chicken tastes juicier and better.

You might want to brine it. Commercial does brine injection and depending on organic, that might not be the case.

I strongly disagree. One of the most obvious (among many) differences we noticed when moving to the US from Europe is the taste of chicken meat. It just tastes very bland and almost chemical. Years later we discovered that (organic, etc) chicken at Whole Foods was better but still not perfect. I've confirmed similar issues with the taste of many vegetables (and I'm not even talking about tomatoes, those I can grow in my backyard and are delicious) and confirmed this with other immigrants.

> One of the most obvious (among many) differences we noticed when moving to the US from Europe is the taste of chicken meat. It just tastes very bland and almost chemical

Everything tastes 'chemical' :)

Snarky comment aside, I agree. Chicken in the US tastes quite bland, generally. At least compared to the Brazilian counterparts.

Vegetables are ok. Most berries are delicious. But bananas taste like cardboard. Some are less bad than others, but still. They do "look" perfect; I'd rather have an ugly, but tasty, banana. Mangos are crap. Most oranges taste like they have already been packaged in a box (there are some good ones though).

>>mass produced chicken tastes juicier and better.

You might be referring to the "gamy" part of it. That's valid for super wild chickens, but a little walk only makes them a lot better. There's no comparison in taste between a 50 day old chicken raised in mass-produced conditions and a 6-7 month one that roams in someone's backyard.

In 20 years, I can see gamy meats being a delicacy. The trick is they have to be 5x the price before people want to eat it on purpose. Chickens have been bred to be tasteless in the US just like commercial pork.

Also, remember that most chicken has added saline as well.

If you eat more natural white meat, it’s drier because there is less fat and no added fluid.

Often, just water. Chicken is sold by the pound. If you increase its weight by 5%, then you just got a close to free way of boosting profits by that amount.

They don't even hide the fact that they do it; most of them print it right on the packaging.

I quit buying supermarket chicken a long time ago because the quality is very poor. I trim the excess fat off chicken, and supermarket stuff has so much waste it was shocking.

No way. Organic free range tastes way better.

Said this to myself recently - I think I buy too much food. Or is it just the packaging... As of lately, I've been patronizing this local farmer's market, they're only open two days a week and I'm buying what I need for the week. I am making a conscious effort to stay out of big-box grocery.

If you get tofurkey or mock duck instead, you'll never have to worry whether it was battery chicken from a factory farm. Yes, it may taste slightly different, but it's a tiny cost to pay to prevent a long time of extreme suffering.

For me, it has helped my mental well being, to not (even subconsciously) have to think about the life of the being whose flesh I've been eating.

> it may taste slightly different

Slightly different? I like vegetables and tofu as much as they next person, but 'textured protein' meat alternatives taste nothing like the real thing.

I prefer just to spend a little more on a non-battery chicken.

Beyond Meat is doing "chicken strips" now and is going full tilt boogie on other meats: bratwurst, steak, and bacon!


Most of those meat alternatives are either soy or wheat based and not necessarily the healthiest kind of food. IMO if you don't want to eat meat learn how to cook vegetables in a tasty way. There's some pretty amazing dishes you can make from fresh(and not processed) vegetables.

> My nephew from the US came over and was shocked at the taste

Shocked -- because it was surprisingly superior?

When I do eat meat, I'll buy pastured meat only from the farmer's market or ethical butchers. Pastured chicken is $16 a pound. This is definitely not feasible for the average shopper. But then again -- people don't need to be eating chicken every single day.

I'm a low income student (in a first world country so still far from poor) and it is totally doable for me to only buy animal products from ethical sources. It just means I eat a lot less of it. I don't think everyone needs to be able to afford to eat meat every day.

>I don't think everyone needs to be able to afford to eat meat every day.

I think you mean not everyone needs to eat meat every day... the way you phrase it makes it sound like an argument for lowering the minimum wage.

I read this as "pasteurized chicken". I was really confused by what you meant at first.

They just take the chicken and raise the temperature to 71.5°C for 15 seconds, then chill it. Way easier than actually providing them a pasture. ;)


Could you please start posting more substantively? This isn't a one-liner sort of place.


Not sure if you're just trolling or not, but I'm genuinely interested in understanding your perspective more. Although I don't expect you to take my word for it, I'm very open minded on this subject. I went vegan at one point.

However, is it really less ethical to raise animals (in humane circumstances, open pasture, etc) and butcher them quickly than to either:

a. Cause them to never exist and never experience life at all (presupposes that one places higher value on existence than non-existence, which is philosophically debatable of course)

b. Cause them to die a natural death at the hands of either predators that will mangle and mutilate them, or to disease which is a slow and terrible way to go?

I've never seen such cruelty as is found in nature. Even just seeing what the neighborhood cats do to the birds makes my stomach turn. I think if I were mangled and blinded, I'd be begging for somebody to kill me quickly.

Please provide better comments.

I am surrounded by chicken farms, and the farmers who own and operate them. Almost all of them are family owned farms who sell to Tyson.

I can say with confidence that they work hard and are very diligent in maintaining a high standard of quality.

It's a false sense of higher morality to claim "ethical reasons" for not buying those chicken. You aren't saving or improving the lives of any chickens when you do that.

And those chickens don't have it all that bad. I also raise my own chickens and they have a great life for a chicken but it's not idyllic. Chickens have always been low on the food chain and here where I live there are a lot of chicken eaters that are not human.

As for safe and organic feed, we all want that, even my neighbors who are chicken farmers. Right now that's still easier said than done. Costco's move may help lead/push us that direction and I commend them for leading on this issue.

> It's a false sense of higher morality to claim "ethical reasons" for not buying those chicken. You aren't saving or improving the lives of any chickens when you do that.

I don't see how this statement can be held with confidence to be true.

If I buy chicken whose precise provenance is known, and which are raised in humane conditions with high-quality feed, with a process that is minimally negatively (or, ideally, positively) environmentally impactful, then indeed there is an ethical gain in doing so.

If I buy from Tyson, I have no way of knowing any of this. Nor does Tyson even claim that I can know these things.

> If I buy chicken whose precise provenance is known, and which are raised in humane conditions with high-quality feed

We're talking morals and we're surely going to have some differences in opinion, but I don't see how raising animals who've been selectively bred to grow an order of magnitude faster and larger than they would naturally, kept indoors for most of their lives, and killed at less than 1% of their potential lifespan could ever be considered "humane". Especially when their consumption is wholly unnecessary.

Ok, I'll talk morals for a bit.

First off, not eating chickens doesn't make life any better for those chickens that are eaten, and no chickens live better as a result of not eating them. The best that can be said is less chickens live because they were never hatched from an egg specifically to be eaten.

Those Tyson chicken farmers are not torturing chickens, not by a long shot. They get good feed and fresh water and as much of that as they want. I don't know what you imagine chickens do all day when they're not in a barn, but I know what they do. All they do is eat, drink, crap, and screw, and by far most of their time is spent eating. They don't drink much and nothing I know of screws faster than a rooster, so that takes up almost none of their day.

And I can assure you that the lifespan of a free range chicken isn't very long. I know this because there are no wild chickens running around where I live, even though 1000s of acres of National Forest surround me and there are many people that raise them at home and farmers with huge barns full of them surrounding the National Forests here. And because I hatched and kept over 30 chickens myself last year and all of them got eaten by wild carnivores. Mostly fox. They're sneaky as can be.

I don't have a problem with those who don't eat meat, but if we're going to talk in terms of morals let's not kid ourselves or others by thinking that eating only veggies isn't taking "life". It is, and I just cannot kid myself into thinking that killing a tomato is less or more of an affront to God than killing a chicken.

There's really very little difference between raising tomatoes from seed and raising chickens from eggs. Both of those are living things and you have to kill them to eat them.

And I won't try to kid myself into believing that I'd not eat a chicken raised by those Tyson farmers if I were starving. I would, and fast too. And so would most everyone who feels a sense of moral superiority to those who eat chickens when they're not starving.

I'll probably piss some people off with this, but here it goes anyway... Chickens, and really pretty much every animal we raise to eat, are all fairly well packaged for eating. From cows to pigs to chickens and even fish of all sizes, they all are dressed out pretty much the same and it's a pretty simple and fast process to get them kitchen ready, and they taste good, and they make you feel good (as opposed to modern junk foods).

Here's another thing... Most everyone I know who's taken the life of any animal for food did so with a very reverent and thankful attitude. You think about that a lot more than you do when buy a taco at Taco Bell or a salad at a restaurant. I do the same when I take veggies from my garden because I know I'm taking life to sustain my own. I provide care and protection to both my veggies and my chickens and I give thanks when I take them to sustain myself and family and friends.

That's all any of us can do and the best we can do. There is no other way to live as a human.

> It is, and I just cannot kid myself into thinking that killing a tomato is less or more of an affront to God than killing a chicken.

Just a reminder, fruiting plants make the fruit for animals to eat to spread their seeds. It doesn't kill the plant. With the exception of herbs and fungi almost every plant humans eat evolved to be eaten and often we only eat parts of the plant that regrow with the intent to be eaten without killing the main body.

"Just a reminder, fruiting plants make the fruit for animals to eat to spread their seeds. It doesn't kill the plant"

But the fact is we do kill those plants. Those tomatoes are filled with seed intended, by nature, to propagate the species, but the chance of that dies when you eat them, and then the entire plant dies. There are no birds eating their fruit and spreading their seed. It that were the case we'd see tomatoes growing wild all over the US, but we don't.

Carrots, lettuce, broccoli, radishes, etc, etc, are all harvested (murdered if you will) before they even get a chance to go to seed. Your reminder doesn't account for that.

So, yes, in fact, billions of plants are murdered each year because we humans eat them.

I'm more curious about why this so difficult for some people to accept. It's obviously driven by empathy and compassion, and I admire that, but it ignores the facts that plainly exist all around us all the time.

The latest figure I could find easily says "In 2008, 9.08 billion chickens were slaughtered in the United States".

And tomatoes? "According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization statistics, around 340 billion pounds (170 million tons) of fresh and processing tomatoes were produced globally in 2014. The harvested area covered 12.4 million acres (5 million hectares) of farm land."

That's a lot of food for a lot of people. All of it brought to life that's taken for one purpose, to sustain us.

This does not make us murderous beasts, and no one, not even those who've claimed to be "Breatharians", has proved they could exist without taking life. There's just no getting around that necessity.

As far as I can make out, this notion that one is existing without taking life is almost exclusively found in cities, generally far from where food is grown and harvested. I'm pretty much convinced it is a willful denial of the truth created by and to convince oneself they are superior to the crude masses who haven't achieved their advanced level of conscientious. And it's a growing trend.

The fact is, it's an example of denial. We all take life to sustain our own. The best we can do is provide the means for it to flourish and take it in as painless a way as possible, rather it's a chicken or a radish.

None of this addresses my original point: I simply do not believe (and, unlike with a local farm, can not verify) that all Tyson chickens are treated that way you're saying they are.

I think that some of them are kept in battery cages, fed antibiotics, debeaked or otherwise mutilated, etc.

I see truckloads of chickens being hauled to the processing plants quite often and they all have feathers, beaks, legs, wings, etc. All their parts are intact and where they should be.

"Debeaking" is not what it sounds like. Chickens have a small, sharp, tooth like point on the very end of their upper beak, and that's what's removed. It's kind of like pulling an incisor, and not like at all like cutting off their entire beak. And that's mostly only done to laying hens, and not done at all on chickens used for cooking by Tyson. Those chickens are only about six weeks old when they're sent for processing. Their beaks haven't even begun to form that "tooth" yet.

Tyson has some pretty strict and well defined standards for those growers.

It's worth taking the time to learn the truth and facts because otherwise you end up worrying about things that do not, in fact, exist.

> Tyson has some pretty strict and well defined standards for those growers.

No they don't. Not at all.

Paraphrasing an organization "Tyson Tortures Chickens"[0]:

Has Tyson committed to reducing maximum stocking density to equal to or less than 6 lbs./sq. ft., with no cages?

Does Tyson require that contractors provide chickens with enriched environments, including litter, lighting, and enrichment that meets GAP’s new

Has Tyson required contractors to replace live-shackle slaughter with multi-step controlled atmosphere processing that eliminates the horrific suffering caused by shackling, shocking, and slitting the throats of conscious?

--- Buying chickens from a local farm, where you can see the treatment, is better. It's better in every way. Your defense of Tyson is puzzling to me.

0: www.tysontorturesanimals.com

This has sat for awhile, but it's worthy of a response.

"Buying chickens from a local farm, where you can see the treatment, is better. It's better in every way."

That's true. That's why I raise my own.

"Your defense of Tyson is puzzling to me."

I am more defending the farmers that live within a 100 miles of me because I've seen their farms and know some of them.

Processing chickens is a bloody business. It's easy to duff off that responsibility to someone else, and easy to complain about how it's done. That's a lot easier that doing it.

Those chickens farmer neighbors of mine are not processing those chickens. They are selling chickens to Tyson.

Tyson chickens feed a huge number of people everyday, many of which are poor, and of the choices they have it's among the better ones.

The notion that I should sit at my desk and complain about Tyson while not actively pursuing what I believe to be a much better way to feed all those people just isn't one I can stand on.

I can agree that farmers and companies like Tyson should to their best to raise and process those chickens in the quickest and least painful way possible but I'm not going to demonize them. They feed a lot of people and that needs to be considered too.

So, the thing to do is work on better ways. You buy your chickens from local farmers. I raise my own and help others do the same by incubating eggs. I actually hatched a couple hundred chicken last year and kept around 30. I gave the rest away.

I won't be visiting "tysontorturesanimals.com" but I will encourage you to design, fund, and build a processing plant that meets your standards and stop complaining about Tyson.

> It's a false sense of higher morality to claim "ethical reasons" for not buying those chicken. You aren't saving or improving the lives of any chickens when you do that.

Consumer pressure has made a variety of improvements in animal welfare, and is likely to continue to do so.

I don't understand why this comment is being downvoted. This is undeniably true. Heck, the industry itself freely admits this. E.g.:



> It's a false sense of higher morality to claim "ethical reasons" for not buying those chicken. You aren't saving or improving the lives of any chickens when you do that.

Yes you are. Every dollar is like a little vote. The things that everyone puts dollars into will grow, and the things that they dont, wont.

"It's a false sense of higher morality to claim "ethical reasons" for not buying those chicken."

Who are you (bunny ear) quoting?

Costco's investment is to get better pricing.

> As for safe and organic feed,

I'm all for "safe" feed, but assigning "organic = safe" is disingenuous. Like it or not (because the studies are not conclusive), but GMO is the only current way we know how to scale food production.

> GMO is the only current way we know how to scale food production.

That can't be true. Do you have a source?

It can't be true because you can't fathom it or because you have evidence of other widely supported organic techniques that I'm unfamiliar with? I mean sure, there is a ton of innovation in the food production supply chain, but nothing quite like what GM has done for agriculture production.

Why do you think GMO was established in the first place? If purely organic food is both superior quality and more economically sustainable, then historically speaking why didn't farmers just continue on that path to meet consumer demand?

> I mean sure, there is a ton of innovation in the food production supply chain, but nothing quite like GM

You refuted your own claim. You originally said GMOs are the only way to scale, not the best way to scale.

Also, I said nothing about organic food. It's not either organic or GMO, there are other options, and in fact they are they majority.

> You originally said GMOs are the only way to scale, not the best way to scale.

Ok, fair enough, I should have been more specific. Let me rephrase my whole point of view:

"The innovation of GMO is largely responsible for the large scale production of the global food supply. I would very surprised if any other innovation in farming has created a higher ROI in terms of crop yield. There are certainly other factors, but to the original parent comment, pretending like organic is synonymous with safe (and equally as it implies non-organic means, or GMO, is not safe) is disingenuous".

> It's not either organic or GMO, there are other options

Like what specifically? Fertilizers and pesticides?

Agree that the GMO vs organic characterization was not fair. But I wasn't addressing that topic, but rather the comment that that GMOs are our only option.

This is a great comment. The number of acquaintances claiming organic “is also cheaper” drives me crazy.

> American chicken monopoly run by the likes of Tyson, Pilgrim's Pride and Perdue.

That's not what "monopoly" means.

Is "cartel" the word they are looking for?

Cartel implies a degree of collusion.

Oligopoly seems like the most accurate word choice.

"American chicken oligopoly" just doesn't have the same ring to it, lol

What about "American chicken coalition"?

I would be surprised if there wasn't collusion.

cartels are inherently unstable and very hard to maintain, plus it's outlawed. I'd be surprised if there is one.

They are not so hard to maintain when everyone acts rationally. You don't need overt collusion as long as everyone acts in a consistent manner and doesn't try to compete.

Cartel is probably much closer than monopoly.

Oh god, why is everyone here so pedantic.

"Monopoly" in this sense is meant to indicate that one is put in a bad negotiating position because the power/options are consolidated into few hands that can demand bargains that are beneficial to their side thus, in this case, disadvantaging Costco.

Every time you use the word "monopoly" it doesn't have to have an exact 1:1 relationship with a law 101 textbook definition.

"Monopoly" in this sense is wrong, because Costco has more than 5 suppliers that they can choose from to buy what they want, and they are getting chicken for really low prices. No one is getting extorted here, except for the farmers, and Costco is just looking to take advantage of them the same way the big chicken companies do. Chicken is half the price than grapes in a lot of places, by weight. It's insanely cheap.

The real travesty is that these companies hold regional monopsonies so the farmers can only sell to one company, putting them in a bad spot where the chicken companies can dictate terms. Costco wants to be able to do that directly to farmers too, without the middle man.

Yup. That's an oligopoly. If a monopoly, the pricing and service would've been so bad that they'd have tried this sooner.

'Monopoly' seems to have become a completely meaningless word. I think it now sort of vaguely means a marketplace or any number of successful companies doing their own thing, and people complaining about a monopoly just seem to be complaining that there are any number of existing successful companies in a space they'd either like to be in as well, or that a company won't do exactly what they want.

Monopoly seems to refer more to "monopoly power" in general and the barriers to entry that exist to protect entrenched interests from competition. Duopolies and oligopolies all have a degree of "monopoly power" without being a true monopoly.

It has lost its ring because too many people are casually throwing it around. I'd prefer "entrenched rent extractors" followed up with some evidence of how they're rent seeking rather than competing. Sure it doesn't have the same ring to it but it is more specific about what kinds of symptoms of disfunction to look for.

I've noticed this as well. Really weird change in the words meaning.

It'a not that weird if you follow the literature.

One of the fundamental aspects of a monopoly is the ability to set prices and therefore extract money from customers without providing additional value- like a tax or a rent.

Whenever few enough competitors exist that a company can begin to tax or collect rent without providing additional value, it takes on monopolistic characteristics.

> in a space they'd either like to be in as well

But that's exactly what monopoly means, i.e. you can't get in and compete with those players.

It sounds like you are justifying monopolized markets for whatever reason.

"Mono" means ONE. Literally the number 1. Monopoly generally means ONE supplier that controls the entire marketplace.

There are other forms of market failure relating to a small group having too much power in the market: Monopoly, Cartel, Oligopoly, Monopsony, etc. etc.

Oligopoly or Cartel are far closer to what the article is describing. To use the word "Monopoly" here is simply incorrect English.

Etymology provides a good basis for guessing the general meaning of words you don't know, but it's hardly the authority on nuances of meaning. Many words have taken tangentially-related or even opposite senses from their roots in other languages.

The meanings of words shifts based on their usage. I'm old enough to recognize that the meaning of words change.

Nonetheless, economic principles have a precise, technical definition for Monopoly, Duopoly, Monopsony, Oligopoly, Cartel, and Oligopsony.

Each situation requires a different policy to handle. So its important to choose the right word to describe any particular problem.

Oh yeah, I agree with the conclusion. Weakening of technical terms makes clear discussion of these abstract topics in a casual context exponentially more difficult.

I just don't see that argument-from-etymology is a productive way to get there since it doesn't seem to generalize.

yes, a monopoly is dominated by one large supplier (or in the case of a buyer, monopsony). but that doesn't mean that there is only one market participant. it doesn't even mean that the dominant player has the majority market share.

like any field of study, people apply words outside of the technical application and meaning gets diluted the further a person is from the field (economics). just look at how superhero movies use the word 'dimension'. =)

but yes, without examining the industry in more detail, oligopoly is the safer initial assumption.

Literal meaning of the word is absolutely irrelevant. Historically monopoly was about granted status, but it's mostly a theoretical concept today, where everyone is in the middle between monopoly and perfect competition. You can say that if it's not competitive enough, it's a monopoly.

> You can say that if it's not competitive enough, it's a monopoly.

A market that is not competitive enough is an 'oligopoly'. That's the word you want. Why do you want to move the definition of 'monopoly' when we already have the word 'oligopoly'?

I don't want to move the definition, my definition is fine and is shared among many people. Yours is the one I think is wrong. You shouldn't imply that oligopoly is not a form of monopoly. It absolutely is.

> You shouldn't imply that oligopoly is not a form of monopoly.

But the article said 'monopoly', not 'oligopoly'.

Monopoly is a form of oligopoly. But oligopoly is not a form of monopoly.

All monopolies are oligopolies. Not all oligopolies are monopolies.

This chicken situation is maybe an oligopoly. It isn't a monopoly.

If you think a situation with multiple supplies and limited competition is a monopoly, then I'd ask you... why do we also have the term oligopoly? What do you think the difference is?

You can argue that all laypeople should use the terms that specialists use, or you can accept that people use words differently and try to understand people when they write/speak.

The latter is far, far easier and actually achievable.

This is the first time I've encountered people using the word monopoly incorrectly like this. I'm not really minded to just roll over and accept wrong usage because a few other people object - the usage is wrong so they need to improve their English.

Also for what it's worth I don't believe the article author misunderstands the word monopoly. I think they abused it to get clicks.

> Where on earth did I imply oligopoly is not a form of monopoly?

> But oligopoly is not a form of monopoly.

This is wrong, sorry.

It's the other way around, since we are talking about market economies, not literal meanings of words.

What do you think a monopoly is? What would you definition be?

As I pointed out earlier, I think of markets on a scale between perfect competition and monopoly. Which I believe is common view. So anything can be described as monopoly if it's not competitive enough.

You don't need any specialized degree to distinguish between the two, and it is frankly not that difficult that laypeople would have difficulty grasping the difference. I prefer not to contribute to the declining precision of language whenever possible. I think saying that "an oligopoly is conceptually similar enough to a monopoly to use interchangeably" is a slide towards hyperbole. This kind of imprecision, but with a sinister bias towards the more extreme version of a word, is subtly making public discourse more polarizing and antagonistic.

Did you try checking the dictionary?


Even better: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/oligopoly

Oligopoly _specifically_ describes what we have here. I learned a new word today.

From your link: "the exclusive possession or control of something", "a company or group that has such control".

You must be trolling.

I'm not. But I do find it interesting how some people here don't like certain definitions and claim they are wrong.

You're describing markets the ways journalists are joked[1] about describing guns. Except you're doubling down and saying "No, you're wrong. All assault rifles are AK-47s, everyone knows what I mean when I say an AK-47, you know, a gun that shoots bullets fast and stuff!"

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/3h74f3/a_journalists...

You're the one that linked the dictionary the says "or group"...

A "group" in a business sense isn't distinct, unrelated entities.

The company I work for is the "something something group".

You claim our definitions are wrong as well!

>Literal meaning of the word is absolutely irrelevant.

Well, to that I say: "Pelecie inoteso su erik anohot fete derera notel not. Toyino litifid ca yigo lece yevi vitod emefan berie nisur, cinim pociepem oce irimo alucetef cupara yonebup eroyifeh oponud."

If the literal definition of words is absolutely irrelevant, then this is a cogent argument that perfectly refutes your position.

> Historically monopoly was about granted status

Historically, monopoly was about single players taking over the economic system. There are other, better words to use if you aren't describing ONE powerful company.

Carnegie Steel Company. Rockefeller's Oil. Ma Bell. ONE supplier, across the entire USA.

You're not winning this argument from etymology (where Mono literally means one), or historical. Ma Bell's breakup was as recent as 1980s, this isn't some "ancient history" here, its modern US history.

Standard Oil was never a literal monopoly, there was always some competition. They had about 90% of the market at their peak, and it was down to about 70% when they were broken up.

True monopolies, e.g. Bell Telephone, local cable franchises, utilities, etc. are (almost?) always granted by the government.

You get local monopolies even if the government freely allows multiple companies to string wires.

> ... monopoly ... players.

Crucially, the "mono-" bit means "one." One seller.

1 < n ⪅ 5 is "oligopoly".

If they collude and conspire it's a "cartel", but technically a cartel can also be a subset of players in a "polyopoly" (which is "many sellers", i.e. a healthy market). It's just way easier if the cartel = everyone :)

"Monopoly" literally means there is only one player in the market, or that one player has a hugely dominant position.

If the suggested "Cartel" doesn't work, there's also "Oligopoly"[0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligopoly

Both cartels and oligopolies are just more specific ways to achieve monopolies.

> Both cartels and oligopolies are just more specific ways to achieve monopolies.

"Market Failure" is the word you're looking for. And there's LOTS of ways to achieve Market Failure.

Your vocabulary of economic terms is limited and imprecise. If you study economics more, you'll certainly appreciate the amount of work that the field has put into definitions and policies.

These details are important, especially in a democracy where we voters are the ones who ultimately decide upon the fate of our country. We all have to have basic economic knowledge of these Market Failure conditions, as well as the policies available to combat them.

> But that's exactly what monopoly means, i.e. you can't get in and compete with those players.

This isn't exactly what monopoly means. Have you tried looking in a dictionary to see what it does mean?

I tried to help him out, to no avail: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18941848

I'm not suggesting or implying this is happening in the chicken industry but an oligopoly that is colluding can act as a monopoly.

That's called a cartel.

CNBC is a major news organization, so they generally should be using English correctly. I think a blog post can have technical errors here and there, but the standards for a proper news article are higher.

CNBC is a major news organization, so they generally should be using English correctly

Doesn't make it an interesting topic of conversation.

American culture is innumerate, you have to use words they understand.


I think the bigger story here is whether or not Costco's chicken will improve with respect to the other players in the market.

Consider that the 'big players' have all extracted the costs they felt they could, with the choices they made, and that is the 'standard' product most people are offered. Now we get CostCo which is making different choices and perhaps getting a different result (size, flavor, what have you). In the event that CostCo chicken becomes the market leader and perhaps people are even incentivized to join CostCo in order to have access to their chicken supply, CostCo would likely open a second and third farm so that all of their chicken needs could be met. And what would that do to the profitability of the others?

To my reading, the article implies that these large farms conspire in their offering, otherwise CostCo could just move their business to the one that was willing to meet there terms. Sort of like McDonald's and their beating potato farmers over the head with demands for the specific variety and size pototato they needed for their fries. (which they could do because their purchases were a significant chunk of the market[1])

So without cooperation from the chicken cartel, or perhaps for other unmentioned reasons, CostCo decides to become an agricultural company too.

I'm really wondering if there is some way to disrupt these large agricultural interests effectively. Imagine the Uber for Chicken Farming where an app connects people with extra chicken into a chicken acquisition and slaughtering pipeline for resale.

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32983108/ns/business-us_business/t...

Forgive my tangent, but do you have any idea why you like to write it as "CostCo"?

I notice it's a common practice on news.y to find (or invent) sub-words in names and capitalize them. Like I remember everyone writing "GroupOn" for the portmanteau of "group coupon"

It's puzzling to me and I want to understand where you're coming from!

I assume that's instinctive camelCase[1] and/or exposure to a very large number of software packages and startups that do go for the ransom note look in their branding.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_case

While I like the other responses better, at one time it was part of their branding. From a phonological standpoint, it was perhaps an effort to guide the pronunciation of the name as "Cost Cō". I tend to type it that way because I hear it that way.

It is a variable naming convention known as "CapWords" or "upper CamelCase". This is the recommended naming convention for Python class's


If the poster was a Haskeller, they would doubtless also have mentioned Co-CostCos.

My boss always writes MicroSoft. I think at one point the company did spell their name that way, so maybe he just got used to it from that time.

Costco is on a supply chain shakedown it seems because they’re also making an eyewear factory for similar business reasons as with chicken.

Being in Georgia I see some of these chicken trucks full of live and dead chickens and while they’re pretty dumb and dirty birds there’s no question that the birds in the system are suffering terribly. On top of that is the human suffering of the farmers that raise them in the kind of financial conditions they’re subjected to.

I’m fine paying substantially more for better treated chicken but the issue is that I have few guarantees that this is happening when I choose some labels over another given how convoluted the US agriculture and FDA system is.

They likely just hit an inflection point where it started making sense to do their own fab.

The rotisserie chicken is a well-documented loss-leader for Costco. At $4.99 for a three-pound bird, it’s an amazing solution for quick weeknight dinners.> https://www.thekitchn.com/costco-chicken-loss-leader-strateg...

Costco's rotisseries chickens are MUCH better than the grocery stores', as well.

And yet, so far below getting a quality bird and roasting yourself...

I've noticed that many of the rotisserie birds have really odd texture, I think because they're grossly overcooked

If you don't get a fresh one there's a chance it's sat in the warming area for a few hours, which could definitely do something bad to the texture.

There's a sticker on each box telling you what time it went out.

They are not undercooked. They inject the raw chicken with brine at the factory.

That's why it has that funny texture.

I think you had a typo, ftr i said "overcooked"

They really are, and it's because of all of that salt!

Look, it's Costco. Not Walmart.

Costco has higher standards than just about any other retailer I can think of.

* Costco tightens standards for antibiotics use by meat producers | The Seattle Times || https://www.seattletimes.com/business/agriculture/costco-tig...

I suspect this move to own their own production is because they couldn't get the quality they expect, at prices they expect, at scale from the current suppliers.

* Animal Welfare | Costco || https://www.costco.com/sustainability-animal-welfare.html

This is really confusing. When the top 5 companies control 2/3 the market, how is that a monopoly? The biggest company is less than 25%.

Anyway, the fact that I can walk into a store (not just Costco, I do this elsewhere) and buy a fully prepared, seasoned, cooked, ready-to-eat, warm, entire chicken for 5 US dollars blows my mind. We don't understand how good we have it. Most of us here on HN can exchange the money we get for less than 10 minutes of work for the aforementioned culinary delight. We're not talking about a bowl of porridge here, this is protein-packed meat. I've been around the world. Everyone (who eats meat at all) loves chicken. We live in paradise.

I can understand ethical and environmental concerns, but we have to be doing something right here.

Agreed, rotisserie chicken is the 8th wonder of the world.

Nice nickname, btw.

Given Costco's size and influence in the food market, I'd like to see them lend more credence to the plant-based meat market which would be even better for them financial and environmentally.

I don’t know why I can’t at least buy lentils from Costco. They’ve got the huge bags of pintos and rice already. They could definitely apply their business model to plant based options. Instead their shelves are prime examples of foods that could otherwise be great vegan but just have animal products needlessly included.

I think it depends on the local market. I live in an area with a large Asian (Indian/Pakistani/Chinese/East Asian) population and my local Costco sells all sorts of lentils along with Naan, etc. They even have a few types of boxed pre-made lentil soups (dals). It probably just doesn't make sense for them to stock lentils in markets with low demand.


Don't be too hard on them, they're the largest organic retailer in the US[1]. Which doesn't mean they couldn't do better (in lots of ways), but they do seem to be trying.

1: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/retail/costco-becomes-...

At our local costco, they have 3-4 types of lentils in typical costco size 8-10 lb bags.

I love finding new plant-based products at our costco, but sadly they rotate in and out and so sometimes we lose a product that I would have loved to keep buying. Hopefully I see some of my favorites back in soon. I understand Costco rotates products around sometimes, even if they did well.

For an article about chickens, there sure wasn't a lot of meat in it.

If it is going to use the same factory farming processes, what's the point?

NPR has more info about motivations:

> Building a system to stock its own stores is a way for the company to better manage supply and costs, especially because poultry companies are trending away from raising chickens to be sold whole.

> According to Will Sawyer, a meat industry economist for the Denver-based farm lender CoBank, chicken producers are growing bigger chickens to sell in parts. "The vast majority are processed into chicken breasts or leg quarters or thighs, or they're further processed into strips or nuggets," Sawyer said. "That's where the industry has gone over 50 years now."


I read somewhere they want smaller chickens that the farms produce.

Planet Money had a really good episode on the kind of shit the "chicken cartel" pulls off: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/05/09/609890025/epis...

I think it's just classic vertical integration, nothing to do with how animals are treated: https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/012715/when-does-it...

I think there's two reasons:

1. They're partially insulating themselves from price changes in the chicken market. By raising the chickens themselves, they can guarantee that they'll only pay a certain price for the chicken they raise.

2. Fewer intermediaries = lower prices since there's fewer companies that each need to make some money = higher profit

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