The Pew Environment Group just released a report, “Big Chicken: Pollution and Industrial Poultry Production in America,” explaining how manure from chicken farms in the “Broiler Belt”—the area extending from eastern Texas through the southeastern United States to Maryland and Delaware—is virtually choking the Chesapeake Bay. And I’ll tell you, with these findings, it’s the chicken industry that should be called “Pee-ew.”
Chickens outnumber people by as much as 400 to one in the Broiler Belt, according to Pew. The more chickens you have, the more chicken manure you get. The 523 million chickens raised and killed each year in Maryland and Delaware alone generate enough waste to fill the dome of the U.S. Capitol about 50 times—or almost once a week.
Farmers typically spread chicken waste on open fields or cropland, but excess chicken poo—which contains excess like nitrogen and phosphorus—is flowing into the Chesapeake, polluting the water and killing aquatic life. A May 2010 Environmental Protection Agency report estimated that 19 percent of excess nitrogen and 26 percent of excess phosphorus were directly linked to animal manure. That’s a lot of excess.
Pew suggests ways to regulate “big chicken” and other concentrated animal-feeding operations, and I won’t argue. But the best way to protect the Chesapeake and chickens is to go vegan.