Los Angeles School Board Cancels Tyson Contract

Thanks to the hard work of local food activists, including my neighbor Jennie Cook, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted this past week to withdraw its five year contract with Tyson Foods Inc. It’s a multi-million dollar loss for Tyson which provides chicken, or.what they refer to on their own website as “protein products” to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Tyson was to have been a part of a contract divided between three other providers. All together Tyson and the other companies, who provide beef, potatoes and turkey, were to split a potential $284,450,000 over five years.

Rumor has it that Tyson representatives will attempt to win back the contract over the next month, with the activists promising to return to the next LAUSD board meeting on August 31st.

Looks like Jamie Oliver’s “food revolution” has come to LAUSD.

Clarification 7/20/2010: According to an email from Jennie Cook, LAUSD cancelled the Tyson contract because of labor practices not food quality. I’ll post more on this story later.

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27 Comments

  1. “Protein products” says a world about the %*&# Tyson produces.

    Can you imagine any person who lovingly prepares real food talking that way?

  2. I suspect this is about old fashioned graft. Someone else paid off the politicians so Tyson is out. As for the “protein products” you do understand that Tyson provides what the schools order, don’t you? So… what’s the deal? Jamie Oliver doesn’t like chicken???

  3. If you think that this is a win for farmers or consumers, you are ill-informed on how food gets to your table. This is only going to make food more expensive. It’s no wonder California is broke for their ideals instead of their understanding of how the economy works.

  4. Anonymous- you are just another hopeful hippie idiot. You have more choice to eat your seitan and tofu when things like chicken gets cheaper. That’s the free market at work.

    Progressives make everything more expensive with fraud, waste and abuse by imposing government bureaucracy on people that don’t want it. Quit being a socialist and imposing it on us.

  5. What is up with the comments? Seriously…don’t you think there are better ways to feed our children than through huge corporations like Tyson?

  6. Food will be more expensive before it gets cheaper. As long as cheap mass commercial companies and growers exist (perfect example being the beef market), quality food will have to cost more to survive in a market where they get outcompeted. So until there’s a greater demand for local/small farmer food/homegrown (which is happening, albeit slowly), quality food will cost more. What I’m wondering now is where will the LAUSD get its food from..

  7. My understanding is that the school district has nominated a task force to study what to do next. I’ll post more as I get the details.

    As to costs. If we feed kids junk they end up with diabetes and obesity which, in the long term, is a hidden cost of cheap food. Pay for more expensive, higher quality food now and we’ll save money down the road. It’s long term thinking.

  8. One of the first things that a charter does is to change the LAUSD (Tyson) food service. There are other good choices out there such as Revolution Foods: http://revfoods.com/. LAUSD has cited its contract with Tyson as the reason for not exploring other alternatives. Now that the contract is up, there is an opportunity for real change. Make no mistake however, Tyson will fight hard to keep this contract.

    From what I understand the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force is the task force in place. Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force
    Alexa Delwiche, Food Policy Coordinator
    Web: departments.oxy.edu/uepi/cfj/lafjn.htm

  9. Jamie: I simply don’t understand your anti-big-corporation point. I buy Tyson chicken and it is perfectly fine and affordable. It sounds to me that you and others are saying it’s fine for everyday common folk in flyover America to eat Tyson chicken but for our schools we want to spend more tax money to prove a point. What’s your point???

  10. I’d just like to point out that this blog has covered efforts to raise chickens on school premises, using local resources.

    For that reason and others, I find the accusation that the blog author doesn’t know how food reaches the table completely absurd.

  11. I would question whether or not that is actually true. Costco no longer carries Tyson beef because they will not submit to E. coli testing. And Tyson, the biggest meat producer in the world, has developed the modern industrial farming methods which grow corn and soy fed beef, pork and chickens that depend upon hormones and antibiotics in addition to pesticides and herbicides in the feed. It’s not actually as affordable as it appears. The corn industry that Tyson depends upon to keep prices low is hugely subsidized with your tax dollars. Consider also the associated health and environmental costs that you and your children will be paying for down the line. Cheap can be very expensive indeed, just sayin’.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-gunther/usda-antibiotics_b_649673.html

  12. To home grown evolution: Diabetes is an inherited disease, you get it from yur parents not your food. If you have diabetes it is important that you follow your doctors advice and this includes dietary advice. However, if you don’t have diabetes eating a diet intended for a diabetic won’t help you in any way.

    To Susan: All commercially grown food is subject to exactly the same FDA regulations (i.e. E. coli testing) and use essentially the same process including antibiotics etc. It would be impossible to raise enough beef and chicken to feed the population without these methods. There is no evidence that any of these common practices cause any harm (lots of conspiracy theorists but no evidence).

  13. @Susan: Thanks for the link to the Hufpost article.

    I’m wondering–in a completely idle sort of way– whether Big Ag hires people to monitor blogs to help clear up any…confusion…that people such as myself might have regarding the mass production of food in this country. If so, I must say it’s very thoughtful of them.

  14. I assume your “wondering”, means my comments. I’m simply trying to improve the conversation. There is so much misinformation that people keep repeating. For example: did you know in the U.S. it is illegal to use hormones on commercially raised chicken. So no matter where you buy your chicken they are hormone free. I wonder who started the whole “hormone” rumor??? Perhaps the people who sell “organically” grown chicken.

  15. What’s misleading is characterizing the hormone -free rumor as started by organic farmers. Tyson stopped its hormone-free chicken false advertising campaign after its commercial competitors complained to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and the Agriculture Dept. that the claims were misleading.

    Growth hormones are used by Tyson and U.S. meat and dairy industry in all livestock farming except chickens because it is useful in producing as much meat and dairy possible at the lowest possible cost. In 1989, the European Community (now European Union) issued a ban on all meat from animals treated with steroid growth hormones, which is still in effect.

    Growth hormones are not used in chicken production because they are not an effective way to increase growth. Breeding, feed and the immobility of intensive broiler sheds increase weight gain and rate of growth. This is why antibiotics, necessary in the close quarters of intensive poultry production, are being fiercely defended though the FDA has urged the industry to voluntarily limit their use to selectively treat or prevent illness- and not to make food animals grow bigger and faster solely to increase profits.

    Tyson was ordered by a Federal judge to stop using its “raised without antibiotics” labeling on chickens and was found to have violated truth-in-advertising/labeling standards. The USDA has also claimed the company hid the use of antibiotics from federal inspectors.

  16. Antibiotics are indeed used by ALL commercial meat producers to prevent disease in their animals. There is no other choice. We have about 310 million people in the U.S. and to raise enough beef, chicken, turkey, pork, etc. to feed them requires intensive farming methods. It would simply not be possible to raise enough meat under a free range option and it is doubtful that even then disease wouldn’t decimate the herds/flocks. I do not have a problem with anyone choosing to pay more for free range meat. My issue with this is 1)If you (that’s a generic “you”) misspeak, lie or otherwise misrepresent the facts I think it is fair and appropriate to point that out. 2)I do not want tax dollars spent needlessly on following “religious like” pseudo-science. If commercially raised beef, chicken, pork, etc. is OK for the 308 million of us who eat it everyday then it is OK for school kids too. Until or unless you can prove it is actually “harmful” as opposed to pointing to some website that regurgitates your bias then I propose we do not spend even more tax money needlessly.

    So much of what passes for “heathy food” is pure BS. I go to Jamie Oliver’s web sites for his recipies but I think he too has been caught up in this anti-corporation, anti-farm, anti-affordable “religion”.

    As for the point about European Union: They are pretty far out there… Most of their disagreement with all things American is more about discrimination and protecting their own producers. I have lived in Europe, and I just came back from Paris where I ate many things Americans would turn up their nose at. They have their biases just as Americans and Canadians and Australians and everyone does. You need to read between the lines when it comes to foriegn countries.

  17. Why is the statement “to grow enough food to feed 310 million people, these methods have to be used” even mentioned?

    Do we HAVE to eat as much meat as Americans do? Do the farms have to be extremely small and limit movement? Do we have to have centrally located processing plants to accomplish the goal of feeding America?

    No, we simply lack the motivation to provide good products to consumers. The almighty dollar bill is the end all point to the conversation.

    We drink liquid sugar in massive 64 ounce jugs, wait a minute, the SUPER big gulp is 1.2 LITERS. 1.2 LITERS OF LIQUID SUGAR. WHY? We eat portions of meat 2-4 times the size of an actual serving. WHY?

    Because we’re fat, lazy, and always wanting more.

  18. To J: I applaud your desire to eat only veggies. I resent your belief that you can force everyone else to do the same. Why? If your happy with tofu and sprouts why would you care what I eat?

    As for “good products”, don’t be naive. Have you been inside a modern supermarket? We have more food and more diversity in our food supply then at any other time in history. If you can’t find something you like then YOU have a problem.

    A 12 ounce soda has about the same amount of sugar as an apple. If I were you I would simply not drink sodas and ignore those who do. As for the size of a “portion” someone chooses, again, why would you care.

    I am neither fat nor lazy but admit I’m guilty to wanting more.

  19. @ anonymous: not sure why people who choose to eat less meat, or are non-meat eaters are assumed to love tofu and sprouts. my daughter is a vegan and does not like salad. imagine that. there are different types of sugar… some good and some bad. you can not compare apples to soda. and finally, there are soooo many alternatives to modern supermarkets.

    whatever the reason tyson is out, i’m glad. hopefully the district will take this time to look at other examples that work well for school meals. there are many!

  20. The sugar in your soda is essentially the same as the sugar on your table and not that different from the sugar in an apple. But more importantly your body turns 100% of the sugar and other carbohydrates into glucose. Your body does not know nor does it care if the sugar came from a soda or an apple.

    I don’t care that Tyson is in or out. What I do care about is the winner is superstition. For some reason people have many food biases (like veganism) and conjur up beliefs about food that defy science. But it gets worse, this conversion to superstition will cost the tax payers more while offerring the children nothing of value.

    I suppose there are alternatives to modern supermarkets, but why? We have the best food supply in the world and food prices in general are low. I support your right to pay more for the same food I can buy for less in my local supermarket. What I don’t support is forcing the taxpayers to participate in this mythology with you.

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