|Industrial Chicken Production|
Humans have increased their food supply here in the United States of America by allowing small farms to expand into mega-industrial compounds where, most notably, chickens are confined to spaces too small to turn around, housed in large buildings often containing 25,000 birds. These poultry farms are usually on contract to major label grocery corporations such as Purdue and Tyson. “The United States is the world’s largest producer and the second largest exporter of poultry meat according to the Economic Research Service (ERS) of USDA. The total farm value of U.S. poultry production in 2008 was $35.9 billion, up 11 percent from 2007.” Is a quote that was found on the web site http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/livestock/poultry/commodity_poultry.cfm
The environment is affected in many ways from these massive results-oriented operations. The actual growers are under extreme pressure to produce larger yields measured by total weight gain of the flocks. As a result, huge investments in new construction, labor cost savings, and maintenance are required that often overwhelm the grower who ends up earning below poverty level wages. The smell of feces and the dander in the air at the factory type buildings cause health risks to the workers. Manure from the intensive chicken farming on the East Chesapeake Bay has resulted in algal blooms, fish kills and habitat degradation as well as “dead zones” in the bay where nothing lives. The feed for the chickens comes from crops that are fertilized with synthetic nitrogen compounds that just get recycled through the chickens to return to the soil as nutrient rich run-off. According to the web site http://www.grist.org/article/2009-11-11-the-dark-side-of-nitrogen/ over 650 million pounds of manure per year is produced by factory farming of poultry in the U.S. alone.
In order to control disease and damage through fighting by birds forced to live so close to each other, the growers must add enormous amounts of antibiotics to the feed and use protein fortified corn which is not the usual diet for chickens which, if free ranged, will eat insects and worms for protein. In December of 2008, Russia suspended imports of all U.S. chicken meat because we could not prove a safe level of chlorine was being used during the sanitation processing of slaughtered birds. To improve the yellow coloration of some marketed poultry, vitamin A and B-carotene is added to the feed. With all the chemicals going into the chickens, the safety of eating factory-raised birds is a growing concern. If you have a local grocer that butchers local grown meats I suggest buying most of your meat from these sources.