The contract farming model has remained strong from more than half a century because people have no idea what they are getting involved in when they sign that first contract. They don't know that their income will remain stagnant while their expenses increase. They don't know that when the poultry company wants to increase the market price of chicken that they,the farmers, will suffer because they will receive less chickens per flock and have increased time that they are without chickens to raise meaning less income.
Much of the well over $1 trillion that you say consumers have saved on chicken purchases between 1980 and 2013 has been saved on the backs of the farmers who raised those chickens. While I don't have figures dating back to 1980, I do have figures from 1985 and per pound base pay was .0420 a pound. Base pay per pound now, 28 years later, is .0600 a pound an increase of a little over 42%. Minimum wage that everyone knows hasn't kept up with inflation has increased 116% in the same time period. Propane prices have increased 285% since 1992. From the first flock we raised till now, our farm has consistently done well in the tournament ranking system that the poultry companies use and we have no debt outside the debt owed for the poultry houses, yet we struggle to pay our bills and taxes and feel we are constantly one bad flock away from bankruptcy. If my husband didn't have a full time job off the farm we wouldn't be able to survive.
While it's much harder to exit the contract poultry business than it is to enter it, I have never known anyone who was able to get out say they regretted it. The contract farming model COULD be mutually beneficial, but as it operates now the only winners are the chicken companies.