Poultry Production on the Eastern Shore

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During the beginning of one of our first trips on journey 4, we had gotten the opportunity to visit one of the family run chicken farms along the eastern shore of Maryland. Here, we met up with the Davison brothers and they had taken us on a tour of their farm and discussed how they have been able to be so successful in meeting the damages of Purdue poultry industry. Purdue is the largest poultry management plant on the eastern shore and produce roughly over a million chickens annually that make it to our grocery stores and restaurants. Family run chicken farms is how Perdue is able to produce such a large amount of chickens. We learned that although the chickens are on these farms, fed and taken care of by these poultry farmers, they do not own them. They are only there to grow enough to market size, which is about 4.5 lbs, and than shipped about to the factories to be prossed.

While we where on the farm, the brothers had walked us through the 2 of their 6 chicken coops. Thankfully, we went on a cold dry day when the smell was not unbearable, but still was strong. When we walked into the coops, I was pleasantly surprised by the environment these chickens were living in. They had space to roam around and a relatively clean surface (even though their bedding was made of poop). I was expecting to walk in and see a bunch of chickens crammed into cages with no room to move around. This definitely changed my prospective on these chicken farms. They even had fresh warm air to regulate the building so that the chickens were comfortible. All these systems seamed great but still left me wondering on the environmental issues.

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These farms are harmful to the environment because they produce an excessive amount of nitrogen and phosphorous from chicken waste which get into the water supplies and streams and is harming the bay’s health. Although I know that these poultry farms aren’t the only cause of the bay’s health, they do seam to have a large impacts on the nitrogen and phosphorous levels which than result in algae blooms and dead zones in the bay. If scientist and conservationist know this is the issue, why aren’t their any new technology built to filter these farms? The truth came out when we listened to Jane Barrett talk about here environmental tactics to reduce and help with the health of the bay. She was brought to court and tried to testify against the big fans outside these coops and to let the government know that these fans produced about 6 pounds of “dust” daily which where escaping into our air. Because Jane did not have any scientific research behind this, she had lost the debate. This is frustrating because if you were to see one of these fans, it was clear that they were releasing a substantial amount of dust due to the piles just sitting right out in front.

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Although I was pleasantly surprised by the poultry farms process, I now have mixed feelings on the farms and am now not sure on what facts to believe. The farmers made it seam like they were doing the best they could to prevent little phosphorous runoff of their crop fields but yet they don’t seam to get credit for their efforts. Although they still seam to be the main cause (not just poultry but also dairy and agriculture farms) why haven’t there been any hard research done on how to prevent this. The real answer is because everything is money driven. Government makes regulations so that farmers have no choice but to update systems to meet subsidies. This, however can make a farmer go out of business because of possible lack of money. If government stopped regulating and focused on using the money to build equipment, maybe farmers would make the switch and thus resulting in better filtration efforts. I’m not saying that this will solve the bay’s problem but during my observation, this seams to be the only solution that looks reliable to me. I think. The first step that need to be made is that poultry farmers step up to the plate and admit they are one of the main causes to the bay’s health. The first step in solving a problem is to get people on the same bored as you and to stop pointing figures at others. If one farmer makes the switch, maybe others will than follow.

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