On February 4, Spartan Staffing, a company known “For Great Jobs in Manufacturing and Logistics,” posted that they were seeking 30 people to fill jobs at a chicken processing plant in Beaver Dam, Ky., population 3,409.
Job duties would include loading products onto a conveyor, lifting totes of chicken that weigh 50 pounds or more, and counting product. Candidates should be able to work 8 to 12-hour shifts, lift 35 to 75 pounds continuously, and be willing to work in a cold environment.
Starting salary is $9.36 an hour. $19,468.80 gross yearly pay.
Those 30 people will be well under the federal poverty line for a family of four. A worker’s salary could DOUBLE and taxpayers would still be on the hook for his children’s KCHIP health insurance. She can get a $3/hour raise and taxpayers still would pay for her family’s food. In addition, we will pay for the children’s preschool, lunch and breakfast at school, supplemental food for children under 6 and pregnant moms, and summer meals. The families will qualify for home energy assistance and home weatherization, in addition to Medicaid.
I can’t believe the community in Western Kentucky is thrilled to have a factory paying adult workers a mere $2 more per hour than a fast food clerk. Scores of people making $19,400 a year can hardly contribute to a thriving community.
It seems especially ironic to me that the 2010 company annual report states that
“in a country as rich in resources as
ours, no one should have to go hungry. That is why
Perdue partners with Feeding America (formerly known
as America’s Second Harvest) and its network of
community food banks and pantries to ensure the safe
and effective distribution of our product donations. We
are committed to making a minimum annual donation to
Feeding America of one million pounds or $1 million
worth of food.”
My guess is those donations are all dark meat that are clogging up the Perdue supply lines anyway. And the 30 workers that will fill the jobs with Spartan will no doubt be eligible to receive some of those leg quarters.
So before we dash to Costco to buy boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.99 per pound, let’s consider the real cost of cheap food, and think about where we want to spend our money.
While I don’t begrudge paying taxes to support my neighbors in need, I feel a little less enthusiastic about buying “cheap chicken” from a company that leaves me supporting at least 30 employees’ families and allows Jim Perdue to purchase vacation homes. The 2010 Perdue annual report revealed the company had $4.76 billion in sales.
Instead, I will buy chicken that is raised on Kentucky pasture, not on a factory farm. It will cost more to process in a small plant than in a factory where people are paid poverty wages. But my chicken will have less fat and more flavor than that factory chicken. So there’s a bone. As far as I’m concerned, eating around a bone just slows me down. I’ll eat less. It’s all good.