Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

My post from yesterday  Jihadists, Beheadings? In Maryland?  alluded to the tightly woven web within the State of Maryland and the chicken industry on the Delmarva Peninsula.  I’m not just picking on Maryland.  The Peninsula or the Eastern Shore, as it’s often called, also encompasses parts of Delaware and Virginia.

I’ve been chastised and reminded that it’s not just Maryland.  For that matter I could go further and say that, in my humble experiences, I’ve seen the very same things across the country in any place the poultry industry sets up shop.

For all of you unidentified and not so friendly people out there that I’ve heard from —

Yes, I admit, I do, enthusiastically, support the Poultry Litter Management Act (PLM) introduced in Maryland’s House and Senate (SB 496) (HB 599).  I also encourage everyone to read the PLM Fact Sheet to clear up all of the misconceptions and downright untruths floating around.  Being informed and making up your own mind is the best gift you could give yourself, and it’s free.

There are several reasons why I’m in favor of the PLM.

Firstly and most importantly, the Chesapeake Bay belongs to all of us. It’s a National Treasure.  There isn’t any single one of us who has the right to continue to destroy it and, yes, this is a pet peeve of mine.  All of the efforts to clean up the Bay are not working as every year we see more or expanding “dead zones” appear.  Major culprits who are degrading the Bay have not owned up and said “I’m going to accept my responsibility, because I care”.

The chicken companies who operate on the Delmarva Peninsula have been in denial since the very first day that disastrous consequences struck.  I can go all the way back to the mid 1990’s when the Eastern Shore had a horrific outbreak of Pfiesteria piscicida.  Massive fish kills and human illnesses abounded.  Nutrient overload mixed with the right weather conditions was identified.  Upon further investigation runoff from chicken manure became part of the mix. The poultry industry immediately started pointing fingers, mostly at farmers.  I might add that this was my environmental awakening as a contract farmer, and realizing that we had serious problems, in in more ways than one.

Coupled with blaming farmers, local watermen who make their living from the bounty of the Bay were the ones being most affected.  Denial of responsibility by chicken companies pointing the finger at farmers and watermen affected, who by the way are neighbors to the farmers, set the stage for a wedge being driven into the community.  Sides were drawn up.  Does that sound familiar, folks?

Since then, millions upon millions, if not billions, of tax dollars have been thrown at the attempt to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and take care of chicken manure.  Oodles of programs have been created to assist farmers with taking care of the manure simply because the chicken industry repeatedly says that the farmers can’t afford it.  Overabundance of chicken manure is transported out of the area. Meanwhile, billion dollar chicken companies have sat back and taken a free ride, courtesy of taxpayers.

In come the threats and intimidation.  Chicken companies threaten to simply walk away.  We will move out of the State and go somewhere we can get away with polluting.  Thousands of jobs will be lost.  It’s the same old story of being held hostage by an industry that doesn’t believe in being a good corporate citizen and taking care of its industrial waste as any other industry has the responsibility of doing.

I see it as not being respectful and mindful of the communities and state the industry operates in.  They see it as more money in their pockets, a way of doing business.  We have been made to feel beholden to an industry that doesn’t give a hoot about anything other than dollars and cents.

In the volatile debate over the PLM Act in Maryland sides have been drawn up.  Departments within the State appear to be hostages to the chicken industry, once again, citing “the Eastern Shore’s chicken industry regarded as one of the most import aspects of the Shore’s economy”, according to The Star Democrat.

So okay, I’ll bite!  I’ll pretend that I believe that.  What I don’t understand is that millions of tax payer dollars are supporting programs to clean up chicken companies’ industrial waste.  Why are taxpayers footing the bill?

I’m a common sense kind of person however I just don’t get it.  Maybe someone can help me out!  On the one hand you have industry saying that farmers can’t afford to pay for disposing of chicken manure so we need to set up taxpaying programs.

On the other hand DPI, the chicken companies trade union, trots out farmers who say they and their workers are making a good living from the chickens they raise under contract with the companies.

Add the fact of State governmental agencies and a handful of lawmakers saying how important the industry is to the Eastern Shore economy, like the economy would collapse without the industry.  If there is all of this money floating around with contract farmers and within the industry, again, I ask, why are taxpayers footing the bill?

The surge of 200 new chicken houses planned for the Eastern Shore exacerbates the manure problem.  The new houses are much larger than what has been customary and can house up to 60,000 chickens apiece.  Warehouse sized buildings, to be exact.  Mostly, we’re not talking about the local farmer adding chicken houses to the farm we’re talking about investors with no ties to the community building chicken warehouse developments. (There are reasons but that’s a story for another day)

The industry has convinced government officials that “this doesn’t necessarily mean the industry is growing”, says Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary, Joe Barten-Felder.  I underline the word necessarily because, here it comes again folks – it’s all in the words!  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the industry is NOT growing, either!

Maintenance is also cited by government officials.  Simply put, more than anything it’s replacing old buildings or old facilities with new facilities. The chicken industry wants new, bigger, with all the bells and whistles chicken houses.  I wonder which one of you older existing contract farms will be the ones terminated to accommodate the NOT growing chicken industry?  Sounds to me like something has to go to make room for the new!

We currently have to transport manure out of the area because of the excess.  Does anyone think that 200 bigger houses equals more chickens equals more manure?  These chicken warehouse developments have no land to apply manure or produce any crops to take up the nutrients.  Like too much icing on a cake, the Eastern Shore can’t handle any more manure.

Quite frankly, I find it insulting that the chicken industry throws out vague statements and expects that we all buy it.

Everyone else in the State has to pay their way in the effort to clean up the Bay for through sewer taxes, the flush tax for septic systems, fees for the septic hauler who pumps and dumps human waste, environmental taxes, and on, and on, and on.  Adding insult to injury, we have tax dollars piled on to take care of chicken manure.

I see this whole scenario as communities being ripped apart over chicken manure and companies who want others to pay for cleaning it up.  If I haven’t given enough reason to support the Poultry Litter Management Act, I can give you more!

Poultry Litter Management Act Fact Sheet

The “Top Story” for February 16th in the Delmarva Farmer, a publication of American Farm Publications caught my eye.  In bold print the title read “”Environmental jihadists” blamed for environmental bill”. 

Seeing the word “jihadists” in the title lead me to believe that this was some very serious and scary stuff.  After all, the Delmarva Farmer is widely known and read within the farming community and most often that same community takes the word of the publication as the gospel truth.

I went on to read the story and I did indeed become very concerned and disturbed.  The issue relating to the title in the story is about the proposed Poultry Litter Management Act which has been introduced in Maryland’s House and Senate.

The legislation was being protested at the Maryland Agricultural Commission’s monthly meeting.  The commission, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) website —  “The Maryland Agriculture Commission is appointed by the Governor of Maryland and serves as an advisory body to the secretary and deputy secretary of agriculture. The commission consists of 30 members representing various commodities across Maryland, and includes both a consumer and a University of Maryland (ex officio) representative.”

One of the poultry industry representatives on the commission, Andrew McClean, said “I liken this [the legislation] to environmental jihadists, they’re trying to economically behead us”.  Whoa!  That is some very serious talk.  There is nothing humorous in McLean’s statement and it’s a highly inflammatory likening.

This came from a person representing the poultry industry that has been appointed by the Governor of Maryland and is an advisor to both the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture?  Having the ear of our highest office in the State and the highest offices in MDA?  Just what kind of rhetoric is the State of Maryland allowing to whip up the public?   This is awfully scary stuff!

To further the State’s agenda, a list of legislation that MDA is watching was given to committee members saying that the Poultry Litter Management Act would bring about co-permitting that would require that chicken companies verify that the farms they contract will follow state mandated regulations before chickens could be placed on farms.

That in itself is BUNK!  Company contracts already have a provision that the farmer will adhere to all state, county, and local laws.  This gives the contracting chicken company the “out” from legal implications should the farmer not be following the laws.

When the Poultry Litter Management Act becomes law, it will be for the chicken companies, who by the way own the chickens, to become responsible for the manure that their chickens create.  Any industry is responsible for the waste it creates.  Any good corporate citizen does this it’s a cost of doing business and a part of free enterprise.

However, in the State of Maryland the industry has had lawmaker’s ears and many programs were initiated to clean up the overabundance of chicken manure belonging to the chicken companies.  In other words the good citizens of Maryland have been giving the billion dollar chicken industry a free ride when it comes to industrial waste responsibility.  All of the government programs created are at the courtesy of taxpayers.  The one’s specifically for shouldering the responsibility of chicken industrial waste amounts to nothing more than corporate welfare.  Why does a billion dollar industry need precious tax dollars that could better serve much more important needs within the state?

We are at a time in our country’s history when the words “jihad, jihadist, terror, terrorist” are associated with radicalized Islam and ultimately ISIS.  Beheadings by these groups are not uncommon and we are seeing in our own country “lone wolf’s/ jihadist”, if you will, committing uncivilized and barbaric acts in a civilized nation.  There are disturbed people out there that one doesn’t know what they are capable of.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard threatening type statements about beheadings coming from those who are supposed to be “leaders” in the farming community.  Is this what the farming community wants to be portrayed as?

It’s beyond my comprehension why a publication such as the Delmarva Farmer would even print such inflammatory stories using bold headlines.  Is it for the purpose of inciting disturbed people to commit horrendous acts?  I’ll bet a milkshake that the editors didn’t think of that view.

I’ve previously stated that the chicken industry tears apart the moral fabric of our communities.  I need to amend that statement to include questions about the morality of publications as well as State leaders allowing highly inflammatory and inciting statements into advisement of any government business.

Natural is the opposite of artificial or synthetic, right?  It’s something that isn’t altered or created by humankind rather something that comes from nature…… I think!

As I’ve often said, folks, it’s all in the words!  Something as simple as the word “natural” is under heavy scrutiny because of slick advertising being used on food labels that confuses consumers as to what the product is.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking public comment asking if it’s appropriate to define the word “natural”, if so, how FDA should define the word “natural”, and to decide how the agency should determine appropriate use of “natural” on food labels.

which way do i go 2I have to stop here for a moment and say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME”?
FDA doesn’t know if it’s appropriate, how to define the word natural, or determine appropriate use on labels?  Reminds me of a quote from Alice In Wonderland ~~~ “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here”.

Phew…  Sorry folks, I had a moment, sarcasm kicked in!
Moving on…..

How many products in the grocery store shout out a reference in some type or form of the word “natural”? As a consumer, is your purchase influenced by a shout out such as “all natural”?  If you say yes, you aren’t alone in your thinking.  Most consumers are filled with a picture that the product came from a producer who supplied them with something that was raised or grown in its most natural state.

The Gospel according to the FDA website

  “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

FDA shares food labeling oversight with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  USDA is in charge of the use of “natural” on meat and poultry labeling.  According to the Gospel of USDA –

“A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.  The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”)”.

The ambiguous meaning of “natural” as defined by regulations leaves consumers unprotected and confused.  Is it unreasonable for consumers to depend upon food labeling and have confidence in government agency oversight that ensures a product is actually what it claims?  Using the word “natural” on food labeling only refers to processing of the food not where it came from or how it was grown.  Most consumers do not know this!

A good example to ponder can be found in poultry.  According to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service

Poultry is not injected with water, but some water is absorbed during cooling in a chill-tank, a large vat of cold, moving water. The chill-tank lowers the temperature of the slaughtered birds and their giblets (hearts, livers, gizzards, etc.). During this water chilling process, turkeys and chickens will absorb some of the water, and this amount must be prominently declared on the label. It is not unusual for poultry to declare 8 to 12% retained water on the label.”

This so called “chill-tank” is referred to by some as the “fecal soup bath” whereby processed chickens are dumped into a large tank or vat to cool down the carcass.  Akin to ground beef derived from many different cows mixed up together for packaging and shipped out for consumption, thousands of chicken carcasses co-mingle in the chill-tank.  The most commonly used type of anti-bacterial/microbial to prevent cross contamination of the co-mingling chickens is chlorine, however there are many other products on the market approved for use.  Chlorine does not exist naturally on our plant, it is made by humankind.

Yet I see many poultry products on the market with the words “natural” or “all natural” in large bold letters on the packaging.  Here is where the pondering comes in.  If chicken carcasses retain 8-12 percent water from processing (not naturally occurring original body water) the end product is altered.  Furthermore, in that chill-tank water that is retained from processing is some type of humanly added anti-bacterial/microbial that is not a natural derivative of our planet.  That would make the end product further altered from its natural state.

I suppose USDA’s ambiguous wording referring to the use of the word “natural” on meat and poultry labels absolves poultry products from not being “natural” under the term of “minimal processing” but for the life of me I can’t figure out how poultry products get around the term of “no artificial ingredients”.

There you have it folks!  In reality the word “natural” on food labeling is worthless and cannot be depended upon to really mean something.  Most of the food you eat is processed in some manner and therefore is no longer really “natural”.

To avoid years of studies, recommendations, and argument, not to mention waste of countless taxpayer dollars, why not just prohibit the use of the words “natural” and “all natural” on all food products or labels.  If the food industry insists on a definition to continue with marketing ploys for food products, wouldn’t it be less wasted time and much less costly to simply look the word up in the dictionary?

My next question would be why do we need two different federal agencies governing food labels?

A network of nonprofit organizations, farmers, consumers and businesses launched a campaign earlier this month aiming to reform Maryland’s food system that lacks adequate fairness, transparency, and accountability. I’m happy to say that I participate on the group’s farmer advisory council.

Fair Farms Maryland, convened by Waterkeepers Chesapeake and supported by more than 40 endorsing partners, is working to create awareness about the relationship between our food systems, the environment and public health.

A sub title on the group’s press release says “Fair Farms campaign showcases sustainable farmers who “”farm against the grain””.  I guess it could be said that I’m one of those farmers.  Sending my brain into overdrive is the “farming against the grain” part.

For example, Nick Baily of Grand View Farm in Forest Hill, MD says “we set out to prove that wholesome food can be produced in a way that regenerates the land, respects nature and the needs of the animals and reestablishes a lost visceral connection between consumers and their food”.

I started thinking that the goals of Nick’s farm shouldn’t be considered farming against the grain it should be the norm in farming.  I mean really, shouldn’t we all want to produce wholesome food, regenerate the land that gives to us, respect nature and the needs of our farm animals and have a connection with those who consume our food?

Another example, “Taxpayers heavily subsidize the intensive farming norm, while also paying higher bills for related health care costs and to restore the damage done to our environment” says Bob Gallagher, in Annapolis, MD, a board member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake and co-chairman of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition.  Bob wrote a guest column “Let’s insist on sustainable food system”, in the Capital Gazette about the Fair Farms campaign.

Bob refers to intensive farming as the norm for food production. Without going into a lengthy explanation suffice it to say that I’m talking about industrialized food production utilizing methods without regard to public and environmental health, lack of respect for the land and animals that sustain us, and where the almighty dollar outweighs the inclination to produce food that sustains farms and communities.

Comparing the two farming methods, which are on opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s hard to reconcile how food production became so jumbled.  It befuddles me when thinking about the notion that food can be, and is, produced with total disregard or care of what is good for people, animals, and the environment.  It also boggles the mind to think that the goals of Grand View Farm aren’t considered as normal!

Taking it one step farther – what about just doing the right thing?  Seriously folks, I’ve seen so much denial, blame shifting, meetings behind closed doors, ambiguity, fear mongering, strong arming, influence peddling, deal making and breaking, and sometimes outright untruths from big ag proponents that nothing surprises me anymore.

I’m sure the first serve from detractors in the volley will be that the Fair Farms campaign is against farmers.  “This campaign is not about environmentalists versus farmers,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Fair Farms is about working together to reform a food system that is out of balance. We shouldn’t be rewarding farm operations that produce cheap food with steep hidden costs to the environment and public health. Instead, we need to find new opportunities to support those agricultural practices that will grow food in healthy ways for generations to come.”

Working together to reform a food system that is out of balance and growing food in healthy ways – sounds like good ideas to me!

If you would like to know more about Fair Farms Maryland   take a peek.  While you are there take the pledge to be a Fair Farms Consumer.  It’s free!

DOJconcentration-workshop

A friend sent me a link to a website entitled Chicken Check In, which at first, I thought my friend was sending me a joke.  I anticipated something funny!  So I clicked on the link  and low and behold, I saw a video banner that showed a carpet of chickens, tens-of-thousands of chickens in an industrial poultry warehouse.  The website belonged to none other than the National Chicken Council (NCC).  This was no joke, folks!

I immediately started noticing things that most people wouldn’t and thought to myself – “The NCC is its own worst enemy”!  Yes that’s exactly what I said for those of you who are reading this and have taken a deep inhalation of air in shock that I would dare to say anything of the sort.  Even more shocking is that I talked to myself saying “what a bunch of clowns”.  I wonder which is more shocking – that I talked to myself or that I said “what a bunch of clowns”?

In an effort to appear transparent and I suppose to show the wonderful life of the chicken in an industrial setting, NCC has once again, shot itself in the foot.  Ah, YOUHOO, NCC, chickens that can only lift themselves and take a few steps before plopping down in exhaustion is not a bucolic slice of life no matter what your experts say!  Furthermore, if anyone takes the time to notice, why are some of the chickens gasping for air?  Chickens do not NORMALLY breathe or try to draw in air through their mouths.

When the chickens do manage to haul themselves up off the manure they are laying in, it saddens me to see that nothing has changed since I was a part of the chicken industry.  Having voiced my concerns many times over about the welfare of the chickens and the methods of the industry madness to excuse itself from responsible humane treatment I concluded that industry doesn’t want to change its ways.  I think that in the interest of self-preservation industry makes believe it changes its ways.

Going back to the Chicken Check In website, I click on the heading “A Day In The Life”.  Eww, look at all of the poo that the chickens are standing and lying in!  I’m not impressed with the picture banner that greets me.  Why would depicting this convince anyone that standing or lying in one’s own everyday excrement is comfortable to a chicken?  I can’t imagine that doing so would be comfortable to anyone be they man or beast.

We hear from a company “poultry welfare expert” that the chickens have plenty of room to commune or go off by their self when they want “alone time”.  Let’s go back to the video banner that greets us and the tens-of-thousands of chickens we see with less than a square foot of living space.  I guess the chickens do commune when they have no choice.  Alone time? Huh!  Someone please tell me that I’m missing something because I don’t see any place in the warehouse where the chickens find “alone time”.  Very misleading if I don’t say so myself!

I do have to agree with the company “poultry welfare expert” the chickens have plenty of feed and water at all times.  Yes folks, 24-7 do the chickens gorge on feed.  I suppose this is the part that is considered to be best animal welfare practices.  Just imagine letting your pet to gorge itself 24-7.

I further have to wonder when the chickens roost and sleep.  I didn’t see anything about that on the website.  Roosting and sleeping is a natural behavior of chickens as they like to sleep in high places.  It’s a safety issue to a chicken and can provide alone time should it so desire.  Having at least 8 hours of consecutive darkness is also natural for chickens however I’m not aware of anytime during a 24 hour day that industrial chickens have 8 hours of consecutive darkness.  Someone please correct me if I’m wrong!

I had to finally stop looking farther into the NCC Chicken Check In and I’m positive that I’d find many more things to point out.  Disgust and anger overwhelmed me and I don’t want to have these negative thoughts during the Holidays.  After all it is supposed to be a time of Peace, Love, and Joy!

From what I just typed, it dawned on me, most everyone must feel the same way.  It’s much easier to ignore the disgust and anger than to do something about it.

For all of the many, many issues that have been publicly brought forward and voiced, pictures, documentary’s, exposes ‘ , campaigns, what have you, I can easily see from the NCC Chicken website, it’s still, business as usual in the chicken industry.

In my humble opinion, there is something that is very wrong with the entire picture.  However, I’m singing – tis the season to be jolly, falalalala lalalala!  Happy Holidays to all and may you have Peace, Love, and Joy during the Season.

Recent conversations have brought to my attention the lack of success with the Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay so I decided to do some research into it.  Known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint (CCWB), six states within the Bay watershed agreed and signed onto the Blueprint to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment runoff into the Chesapeake in efforts to restore the Bay.  Those states are New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia

Within the Blueprint, milestones were set for each state to accomplish.  I came across reports produced by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) on interim progress achieved by each state.  These reports were derived from limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 under the Clean Water Act.  Although there are 6 states, to monitor for progress, my concentration zeroed in on the Delmarva Peninsula including Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.  Indicators are – the milestones won’t be met for certain “stakeholders”!

Further research into the subject had my head spinning.  I often wonder if things are done this way just to confuse people!  To sum it up – attempting to sift through all of the related documents, publications, agreements and re-agreements, memorandums of understanding, analysis, legislation, and any other document you can imagine, it is a wonder that anyone knows exactly what is supposed to be done to clean up the Bay.

Agriculture is one of the major contributors to the killing of the Chesapeake Bay and that is a fact.  Within the framework of federal and state agreements limits on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment were established.  This relates primarily to agricultural runoff.

“While pollution controls put in place over the last five years have lowered the amount of nutrients and sediment entering the nation’s largest estuary, new data show that agricultural sources have sent more nitrogen and sediment into the Bay since 2007 than previously thought.”  Chesapeake Bay News/Chesapeake Bay Program

This troubled me because I have observed local area grain farmers monitoring soil conditions before planting crops and re-monitoring throughout the growing season.  Of course I’ve heard a lot of mumbling and grumbling about the excessive paperwork and field work required, however they do what they must. These farmers, in my humble opinion, have been vigilant.

I think it’s safe to say that we all know where the problems stem from! Chicken manure is the number one product of the Bay woes coming from the Eastern Shore.  I once heard the descriptions that chicken manure was spread like icing on a cake over the Eastern Shore and one of Maryland’s past Governor’s described the states eastern shore of the Bay as the “shithouse” of the state.  What a legacy for us Eastern Shore folks!

Efforts by farmers to try and stem the flow of manure pollution into the Bay have overwhelmed them.  There is way more chickens than available land to utilize manure produced from those chickens.  Heck, there are more chickens than people – 449,226 people, only 8 percent of Maryland’s population compared to 305,200,000 chickens (2013). The answer to that problem was to establish State programs to assist.  Implementing taxes including a tax just to flush the toilet. That was my favorite!  All courtesy of taxpayers to clean up a mess that wasn’t created by them and doesn’t belong to them!

With the wild frenzy occurring within the chicken industry to build more chicken house developments, we will never reach the milestones set out in the Blueprint. Period!  Delay’s in identifying the problems with more studies, panels, organizations, commissions, advisory boards, or whatever other clever name can be thought of doesn’t solve the problems.

Maybe a little bit of common sense would help.  It’s perfectly clear that we already have too many chickens being produced on the Delmarva Peninsula.  Why in the world would we allow increased numbers in production of chickens?

The Blueprint for the Chesapeake aims only to restore Bay health not to aim higher than restoration. It’s highly unlikely that it will ever be restored to its original state rather restored to a palatable state where it will be safe for human utilization.  We can throw all of the tax dollars we want toward fixing problems created by private industry or we can tell private industry to clean up its own mess!

This folks is part of the REAL cost of cheap chicken!

I’ll be perfectly honest about the Chesapeake Bay being a pet peeve of mine. I don’t believe that any one of us has the right to wantonly destroy a National treasure. It shouldn’t matter who you are or what you have or don’t have. There are NO exceptions. There are consequences to actions and if you are a culprit of destruction to the Bay, you, alone, are responsible for your actions.

On the Delmarva Peninsula the chicken industry has a presence that can be seen from major routes that visitor’s travel to visit our beaches. If one were to take a detour down any side road that presence would be highly notable. We are no longer talking about the occasional farm with a few chicken houses we are talking about huge developments of chicken houses. Thusly, what used to be farms are now classified as CAFO’s – concentrated animal feeding operations and called CAFO developments.

In today’s terms, the chicken houses are huge long buildings, 67 feet by 650 feet. That’s 43550 square feet of living space for chickens to be crammed into for six to seven weeks, 5 times per year. At best, the chickens are given three-quarters of a square foot to live on until they are sent to the processing plant. Using the figures above and giving the benefit of the doubt on exact living space per chicken, each building would house 58,000 chickens. Exact figures are hard to pin down. I’ve been told 3 different numbers the highest being 60,000 chickens.

Needless to say, there are a lot of chickens in one building, too many chickens that produce, roughly, 180,000 pounds of manure during the course of one 6-7 week period per house. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that cramming animals into a building with less than a square foot per animal and living on their own excrement for 6-7 weeks is going to brew undesirable and dangerous consequences.

The consequences are many. A constant diet of antibiotics/antimicrobials to counter diseases created by the model of cramming as many chickens into a given area comes to mind. So does ammonia emissions from the huge fans that exhaust bad air out of the buildings. Communication of disease to humans, such as avian influenza, is a scary one. Some have charged animal cruelty, environmental degradation, a huge contributor to the destruction of the Chesapeake Bay, loss of enjoyment of property and worthless property values. The list goes on……

A good example of CAFO development can be seen in Somerset County, MD where 6 residences sit right smack in the middle of 28 chicken houses. The CAFO development came long after the homes however the county never took into consideration the residents who would suffer the consequences. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is located 2 miles from the same CAFO development.

We’ve heard all of the excuses from the county and the state permitting this type of development. These excuses are the same that industry has hidden behind for years. Land zoned agriculture, Right to Farm, and county regulations for setbacks from roads and property lines. Who made up the planning, zoning, and regulations? The county and state with input from industry! Other input, if it was oppositional, went into the wastebasket!

With a burst of chicken house development suddenly occurring in the lower counties on the Delmarva Peninsula and some chicken companies offering incentives to build CAFO’s, residents are raising objections and well they should. What was once acceptable and allowed to run feral is now being resisted by local communities. In both Somerset and Worcester Counties in Maryland, residents affected from CAFO developments have raised objections and concerns to county officials. Well organized with legitimate and sound scientific concerns presented to the Somerset County, MD Planning Commission, residents have asked the county to revise CAFO regulations. Public Health concerns are at the top of the list of reasons for taking a look at permitted CAFO developments.

I’ve sat through some of these meetings and honestly have to say that it was akin to a dog and pony show on the part of the county. Other than a court room, I’ve never heard of a public meeting where the public wasn’t allowed to speak or ask questions. Furthermore, it is inherent that those making the decisions excuse their self from the process when a personal interest or conflict of interest would cloud their decision. Public servants have a duty to put personal gain and beliefs aside.

A moratorium on further building until regulations, considerations, and sound science can be looked at has been asked for and rejected. As the powers that be slowly draw out the process CAFO developments are advancing at a fast and furious pace.

From a moral standpoint and doing the right thing, industry should take into consideration those who are affected by its practices and not pay out cash to CAFO Developers that want to plow over anything and everything that is in their way!