Train Tracks

Foster Farms: Union Pacific Service Disruptions Could Mean Death for Millions of Chickens

Jan. 9, 2023
On January 3, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board issued an emergency order which forced the rail line to get feed to California to prevent the deaths of millions of chickens and other livestock.

Tension is mounting between Foster Farms and Union Pacific following the poultry farm's repeated requests for UP to deliver livestock feed to its Traver, Turlock, and Delhi facilities in California. On December 29, 2022, Foster Farms filed a petition for emergency service with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) to help prevent losing millions of its chickens due to 'continued deterioration' in rail service from Union Pacific.

The STB, which regulates and decides disputes involving railroads, issued an emergency order on January 3 ordering UP to deliver animal feed to Foster Farms in order to avert a potential significant loss of livestock in California.

This wasn't the first time the California-based Foster Farms asked for intervention. In June, the company filed a petition with the STB after it had experienced delays in feed shipments and nearly had to euthanize millions of birds because of it. According to the petition, 100-car deliveries of corn -- which is used not only for chicken feed but also as corn feed for hundreds of dairy farms -- weren't showing up. 

According to the December 29 petition, Foster Farms indicated the emergency order was necessary because of “substantial, measurable deterioration of rail service” by UP beginning October 2022. The corn that is supposed to be delivered by UP is then used to feed "hundreds of thousands of cattle and millions of chickens" which are raised for the purpose of providing food supplies. 

In its petition, Foster Farms said it cut off feed for dairy cattle in order to preserve the corn for feeding chickens, which are more susceptible to starvation.

According to WSJ, UP claims weather problems throughout the country have affected the train line's service, but that it was able to deliver five trains to Foster Farms in the past week. According to the article, only one of the five trains arrived as scheduled. 

About the Author

Erin A. Hallstrom

Erin Hallstrom oversaw our digital content strategy for the Food Processing brand from 2008-2023. She is now the Associate Director of SEO Strategy for Endeavor Business Media, where she holds technical certifications in both website analytics and search engine optimization. Most recently, she was named the 2022 Marianne Dekker Mattera Award Winner

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