Poultry Litter Incineration: An Unsustainable Solution
In 2011, Maryland requested proposals through its CleanBay Power Project for a new 10 megawatt (MW) plantthat generates electricity by burning poultry litter, whichconsists of manure, bedding, feathers and spilled feed.Poultry processing giant Perdue Agribusiness, Inc., inpartnership with energy company Fibrowatt LLC, sub-mitted a proposal targeting Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with construction and operating costs estimated at $100million.
If approved, the project would allow Perdue and Fi- browatt to sell its energy to the state despite the well-doc-umented health and environmental hazards of burningchicken litter. Despite concerns that burning poultry litterdoes not provide clean energy, similar projects have beenproposed or are in planning stages in North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas,
In regions where factory farming is concentrated, toomuch animal waste is generated for crop
elds and water- ways to absorb without signi
cantly harming the healthof communities and of the environment, despite indus-try claims that burning litter for energy is a long-termsolution for agribusiness’s waste problem.
Building new power plants to burn this waste only provides another band-aid for a corporate agriculture system that is envi-ronmentally damaging and unfair to farmers and workers.Moreover, such projects are not economically feasible without signi
cant government subsidies.In order to improve the livelihoods of farmers and protectenvironmental and public health, state lawmakers shouldshift their attention to the unchecked power of Big Ag andreexamine the policies that have encouraged the transfor-mation of the nation’s farms into factories.
Corporate Power and Abuse
The poultry industry is highly concentrated, with fourprocessing companies controlling 58.5 percent of theindustry’s broiler chickens.
These vertically integratedcompanies own the birds and control multiple stages of production including the delivery of
ocks and feed tothe growers.
Growers are hired by the poultry companiesthrough “take-it-or-leave-it” contracts that dictate how much growers get paid
and when a grower must rebuilda chicken house, thus incurring new debt.
In the broilerindustry, production contracts are near universal, cover-ing 98.9 percent of growers.
There has not been an opencash market for broilers since the 1950s.
Poultry companies also abuse the workers further downthe chain in their processing plants, an industry with ratesof injury and illness among the highest of any industry.
In addition to facing dangerous working conditions andsystematic obstacles to receiving worker’s compensation,
poultry processing workers are also subject to widespread wage theft. A survey of 51 poultry processing plants by the U.S. Department of Labor found that each one had violated labor laws by not paying employees wages for allhours worked.
Poultry companies use production contracts to force poul-try growers to accept all
nancial and legal responsibility for securing environmental permits and for managing themassive quantities of manure generated.
For example,Maryland’s broiler industry produces 700 million poundsof poultry litter each year, which is routinely spread onMaryland
and ends up polluting waterways likethe Chesapeake Bay.
A 2010 study estimated that factory farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore produce 300,384tons of excess poultry litter beyond the capacity of local
he poultry industry continues to in
uence lawmakers to prioritize corporateinterests over public health, sound food policy and environmental concerns.Citizens in Maryland and in other states are being asked to bail the industry outof its massive waste problem by
nancing poultry litter incinerators.
Fact Sheet • May 2012