How have we become as bored with chicken as we were in college?

Wait, why should I just sit back and assume the chicken is still safe to eat? Well, this is one of those “how you doin’?” moments. It’s sort of like that scene in American

Wait, why should I just sit back and assume the chicken is still safe to eat? Well, this is one of those “how you doin’?” moments. It’s sort of like that scene in American Pie where Seann William Scott does everything wrong while his high school sweetheart (Julianne Hough) sets him straight.

To wit: Chicken was one of the biggest growth industries in America in the 20th century. Chicken has been a staple for centuries, from Egypt to Cambodia, Greece to Ireland. When the U.S. imported Egyptian chicken from 1898 to 1934, it was the most popular protein in the country. In 1899, it was even the biggest source of income for the African-American community (if it hadn’t been outlawed by racial segregation laws, according to this PBS documentary). The industry has grown six times, from 1983 to 2012, and is valued at $78 billion today, according to Forbes.

Consumers were hooked on the chickens, and chickens liked us back: In just 30 years, consumption more than doubled in the United States, reports The Atlantic, and chicken became an integral part of the American diet. In one big chicken blockbuster, the price of a dozen bird dropped to $1.99 in 2011.

We see that growth rate continuing for many, many years, but what are we to make of reports that one in nine chickens we ate in 2012 was contaminated with salmonella? (Poultry is more frequently contaminated by Salmonella than beef, and in fact is 70 times more contaminated than beef, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

So what has happened to all the dollars the industry has made over the years? How to claim it? Today, the best way to get a cut is through a class action lawsuit. Not only are chicken consumers not getting the benefits of their chicken dollars, but the money might also go to another group of people: farmers. What about you? Are you trying to raise your own chickens? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s what to do: Contact the class action attorney in the case, but that’s going to cost you a lot more. A good rule of thumb is $1,000 is the bare minimum, but it could go as high as $2,000, says the Atlanta Law Journal.

Curious what’s on the other side of that lawyer’s door? In the late 1990s, a massive class action lawsuit against Tyson Foods had similar feelings about class actions. The cattle company paid about $85 million to settle claims that meat shortages was harmful to consumers and intended to use the money to pay dividends to shareholders.

From the SEC’s announcement of the settlement:

In making the decision, the Court granted summary judgment for the SEC to pursue its claims against T. Tyson despite the substantial damage that the party will suffer from the adverse judgment it will be ordered to pay. “Tyson’s shareholders will receive approximately $85 million in return for their willingness to gamble against Tyson’s best interest. They have committed fraud in seeking to protect themselves from the expenses and risks of slaughtering and processing chicken,” the SEC’s Administrative Law Judge, Eric Cornell, wrote.

If your money ever went to Tyson, think twice before paying that hefty fee, just in case there was not fraud.

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