- Historic Sites
The Chicken Story
A CENTURY AGO you’d eat steak and lobster when you couldn’t afford chicken. Today it can cost less than the potatoes you serve with. What happened in the years between was an extraordinary marriage of technology and the market.
September 1996 | Volume 47, Issue 5
Tyson now sells nearly two-thirds of its production to restaurants and take-out chains such as Boston Market or to food-processing companies like Stouffer’s.
The shopper who bought one of those 387 chickens that Mrs. Wilmer Steele first raised deliberately for market in 1923 paid well over ten dollars a pound for it in 1994 dollars. Today a shopper can buy one from Perdue, Tyson, or any of dozens of other chicken companies for less than one-tenth of that price.
That is no small accomplishment. And the thanks are due to countless, mostly nameless individuals—farmers, feed-mill owners, breeders, transporters, scientists, bankers, wholesalers, and the like—who sought only to make life a little better for themselves and made it a little better for everyone—except the chickens—in the process.