Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why Bill Gates Won't Be Raising Chickens

When asked recently how the poor can lift themselves out of poverty, Bill Gates answered that they should raise chickens. And then preceded to explain why raising chickens is a nifty way to survive the crushing hand of poverty for the world's billions of abject poor.

Anyone who has traveled through the American Southeast -- Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama -- will see hundreds, no thousands, of deserted chicken coops. They were built by people desperately trying to rise out of poverty and who signed contracts with the Tyson corporation to raise chickens. But the contract had some provisions in it. They had to buy their eggs from Tyson, and the feed, and when the chickens were ready for market, Tyson was to be the only market. Tyson named their prices from start to finish; and when disease or disaster wiped out a crop, as it often inevitably did, the chicken farmer went broke and the coops were abandoned. Sure, Bill Gates, just raise chickens.

Gates, one will recall, is the man who once said that if you are born poor, it is not your fault, but if you die poor, it is your fault. This man is monumentally insensitive and he thinks he has the answers to the world's problems.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.


  1. Raising chickens just for yourself and not for a corporation is actually quite easy. If the person has the land, usually a half acre or more, they can free range the chickens and only have to purchase minimal food. A small flock of birds and a rooster or two, and you can easily have a sustainable flock of chickens. You get eggs, meat, and as long as you have good layers and brooder birds, you will have new chickens to replace the aging ones. Once a chicken stops laying, usually after three years, it becomes dinner.

  2. Raising backyard chickens has been a growing trend in the US for at least 10 years--even in suburban and urban settings. It's not about agribiz. My city council just voted to allow residents to raise chickens on their property.

    In developing countries, it's about poor people feeding themselves more healthfully and maybe doing a little better than subsistence until their economies improve.

  3. Gates is referring to rural sub-Saharan Africa, not the United States, so you're bashing the guy here for the wrong reasons, Gene. His goal of increasing the "chicken market" there from 5% to 30% seems to me reasonable and doable.

    The Gates Foundation has a better track record in improving health in undeveloped countries than in improving education in the US--its two mission priorities.

    The promotion of "Small High Schools," "Measures of Effective Teaching," and "Common Core Standards" have each been multi-billion dollar failures. More worrying, Gates seems to have learned nothing from the series of failures. To paraphrase Bill, "If you start out stupid, it's not your fault, but if you stay stupid after squandering a lot of money and opportunity, it's your fault." Eventually, chickens come home to roost, but gawd only knows what goes on meanwhile.

  4. Gene V Glass your article is superb :) I want to appreciate you for sharing as I learned something new today and I hope you keep on updating and sharing about new things as well :)