Vegans Rejoice as Farmers Switch from Chickens to Hemp

A trend is emerging among poultry farmers who are converting operations to industrial hemp farms.

Poultry farmers who raise chickens for slaughter are switching to industrial hemp farming, a trend that has taken place over the past few years. The reason? Hemp is among the crops that requires some of the fewest resources. It’s a hardy and easily renewable crop, and its active compounds like CBD make it more valuable than other industrial crops. 

Vegan advocates have been after chicken farmers for some time now. Totally Vegan Buzz profiled a handful of farmers from multiple states on April 24 who are switching from poultry farming to hemp farming. Some of the farmers they talked to previously raised poultry for Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., an American, multinational food company—one of the largest chicken producers in the United States, and a frequent target of vegan organizations. 

Pilgrim’s Pride received numerous criticisms in the past for multiple reasons including both the treatment of animals and of employees. Beyond the benefits of hemp, however, vegan advocates are primarily concerned about the treatment of chickens and other animals.

Chicken nuggets? Ironically, vegan veggie nuggets that mimic the taste of chicken nuggets often contain hemp hearts or other hemp ingredients. But most hemp farmers that are making the switch are growing hemp for industrial purposes. The New York Times reported in 2016 that West Virginia farmer Mike Weaver, previously raised chickens under contract for Pilgrim’s Pride but switched to crops including hemp. One advocacy group calls the switch “Transfarmation.”

There are multiple financial perks of growing hemp, and the industry continues it steady pace of growth. The global hemp derivative market is predicted to reach an estimated $15.2 billion by 2030 with a CAGR of 15.3% from 2024 to 2030. The major drivers for this market are expanding scope of industrial hemp cultivation and growing demand. The “Hemp Derivative Market Report: Trends, Forecast and Competitive Analysis to 2030” report by provides more details.

Tom Lim, a Cambodian transplant who raised over half a million chickens each year for Pilgrim’s Pride. He explained one of the reasons why poultry farmers are switching to crops like hemp and vegetables, including the setbacks of raising chickens. “Many poultry farmers get sick due to breathing inside the [chicken] house”, he said. Lim and his wife Sokchea transitioned from running a poultry farm to produce. 

“Growing vegetables on my land has always been my dream,” he said. “It’s the healthy way to make food. In the chicken house, you contend with ammonia, odors, and insects. But entering a greenhouse—it feels fresh and healthy.”

Vegan morals have woven their way into the story, and the topic permeates into popular media. The Guardian reported last December that the popular stop-motion animated film Chicken Run and its sequels can be interpreted as “a vegan morality tale.” It’s vegan-coded, many people have speculated.

Transfarmation: The Trend of Converting Chicken Farms to Industrial Hemp Farms

In 2021, a farmer started an initiative to help chicken farms convert to crops like hemp.

The Transfarmation Project is an initiative from the advocacy group Mercy For Animals, and they help businesses convert their businesses from raising chickens for slaughter to growing crops like industrial hemp.

“Our Transfarmation team provides resources and support to industrial animal farmers interested in transitioning their farms to plant-focused operations, the organization states. “The resources we create and data we collect are accessible to other farmers and organizations to facilitate widespread farm transitions, thereby contributing to societal good.”

The Transfarmation Project highlights many farms that have converted to hemp as well as other crops, such as mushrooms or produce.

Mercy For Animals highlighted a family farm run by the Halley family in Cookeville, Texas. For 30 years, the farm “raised six flocks of chickens a year—192,000 birds per batch,” they said. But the family-run farm converted to hemp. You can watch a video clip of the transformation on YouTube.

“This is the very first successful transfarmation,” said Mercy For Animals president Leah Garcés. “There are 12 chicken houses, and they used to house tens of thousands of suffering animals, and now they are going to dry hemp. That is just so beautiful, to see the transformation, the possibilities that can come when people come together and try to find solutions. … I am going to work hard to make the chicken houses turn into something that [farmers] can make money off of, that can sustain the land and their families. 

It is such a moment of creation and growth rather than destruction and death. And I just want to be a part of that.”

More farmers are considering the viability of growing hemp instead of raising poultry and other farm animals.

1 comment
  1. I’m not a Vegan, but i do know that we’re screwing the planet and ourselves by both eating and farming to much meat.
    It’s a pity that I get the impression that most of these farmers going from chickens (which have the highest feed to protein conversion ratio of all animals farmed for meat) to hemp are growing the hemp for high value CBD and not hempseed (food).
    However the prices of both CBD and hempseed, both now global commodities, is inevitably going to drop as more farmers globally grow hemp. But luckily there shouldn’t ever be a huge crash in price for either, since as time goes on more people are consuming CBD and hempseed.

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