Indicted Chicken Industry Executive Given Paid Leave as Workers Suffer

Earlier this month, Pilgrim’s Pride president and CEO Jayson Penn became one of four chicken industry executives indicted for price fixing. Last week, Pilgrim’s Pride announced that Jayson Penn would take a paid leave of absence to focus on his defense—all while the meat industry continues to allow hazardous conditions for workers.

The other indicted executives are former Pilgrim’s Pride vice president Roger Austin, Claxton Poultry Farms president Mikell Fries, and Claxton vice president and former Pilgrim’s Pride employee Scott Brady. Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton supply chicken meat to huge chains like Costco, KFC, and Chick-fil-A. These executives are the first to be charged in an ongoing Department of Justice criminal investigation.

Pilgrim’s Pride chairman Gilberto Tomazoni said in a statement:
The board takes the recent allegations very seriously and believes it is in the best interests of both Jayson and the company that he is given the opportunity to focus on his legal defense during this time.
While this meat giant is determined to give its CEO and president an “opportunity,” its workers are not afforded the same consideration.

Around the country, U.S. slaughterhouses have become COVID-19 hotspots. This is largely because major meat companies have failed to protect their workers. Workers—in many cases people of color—must often stand elbow to elbow and report that they have been denied masks and other protective gear. As a result, according to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, nearly 200 meatpacking and processed food plants have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and almost 12,000 workers are confirmed sick. At least 48 have died.


Pilgrim’s Pride’s decision to give this indicted CEO and president paid time off while workers are forced to put their lives in danger shows where the meat industry’s priorities lie. The price fixing scandal itself further demonstrates that the meat industry doesn’t care about workers—or animals or even customers, for that matter.

Supporting a more just, compassionate food system is easy—just add more plant-based foods to your routine. Get delicious vegan meal ideas by ordering a free Vegetarian Starter Guide today, and check us out on Pinterest for even more recipes.
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