Saturday, April 28, 2018

Giant chicken farms overrrun Delmarva; Illness feared

Georgina Gustin reports for Inside Climate News:

As the country's demand for chicken has soared—Americans eat three times more chicken now than they did 50 years ago—Delmarva-area production has soared along with it. Last year, the region produced more than 600 million chickens, more than double the tally from the 1960s. Much of that meat is shipped out of Norfolk, Va., the poultry industry's fourth-largest port, to feed a booming global demand.

Now, tourists headed to the peninsula's beaches speed along a flat coastal plain studded with gleaming chicken complexes, as an older generation of obsolete barns collapses in the background.

But recently, more residents have started pushing back against Big Poultry. They're tired, they say, of seeing bucket-loaders routinely dump hundreds of dead chickens into "mortality composters." They're tired, they say, of the smell, of driving home on roads flecked with manure, or pulling into their driveways at night through showers of manure particles and feathers that drift past headlights like falling snow.

It's not just the unpleasantness or diminishing property values that bothers people. Many residents worry that emissions from chicken barns—ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter—mostly from chicken manure and urine, are making them sick and worsening the region's rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses.

Even though these animal feeding operations, or AFOs, emit climate-warming gases and air pollution that's linked to illness, these air emissions are not generally regulated or monitored under federal or state law.

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