Abstract: Big Dixie Chicken Goes Global: Exports and the North Georgia Poultry Industry
Over the past one hundred years, chicken raising in the American South has evolved from a small-scale local barnyard business to a highly capitalized and mechanized industry. Over the past few decades, exports—mainly to Russia and China—have become an increasingly important part of the operations of the large vertically integrated operations that dominate chicken raising and processing throughout the United States. This fact was brought home to many Americans for the first time when in March 2002 the Russian government cut off all U.S. poultry imports and caused a storm of protest. The global marketing of poultry products has certainly been in evidence in North Georgia, home to the city of Gainesville, which boasted for many years of being the chicken capital of the world. Gainesville has several regionally based companies for which exports are a key part of the business. In this paper, I examine the process by which the industry evolved in this region and eventually turned to foreign markets as one way of dealing with the intense competition among the big processors. I look not only at the causes of this shift, but also at the consequences for business owners, workers, and chicken growers.