Big Chicken & Pollution-Pew Commission

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The Pew Commission report on “Big Chicken and Pollution” was published on July 27, 2011 in the same week that near record oxygen dead zones were reported in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. These two watersheds along with other adjacent Coastal Plain watersheds drain almost half of the U.S. land area. Chicken production dominates 15 States including 6 Gulf States and 3 C. Bay States. We have long recognized that both corn fed CAFO red meat and CAFO chicken production including over fertilization of corn used as CAFO feed is by far the Countries largest source of pollution but there were several surprises in this report. Both beef and pork consumption were reported as being down slightly over the last 20 years while chicken consumption was up substantially. With the exception of antibiotics, growth hormones, arsenic, and atrazine contamination this is good news for consumer health. It is bad news for water quality because chicken waste contains up to four times more nitrogen and phosphorous the leading elements causing pollution. While chicken CAFOs are only 15% of CAFO sites Nationwide they produce 60% of the manure pollution (see pg 13). The report is disappointing because it did not mention pyrolysis of animal waste nor pasture raised animals as  solutions not only for nutrient pollution but also for helping restore the Nations soil. Biochar, a product of pyrolysis, is an excellent soil supplement, which can help, sequester carbon, restore fertility and effectively reduce soil erosion. A recent report by the Soil and Water Conservation Society pointed to the planet’s soil as the largest sink of the world’s carbon. S.A. Khan (ref #50) pointed out that poor soil management practice is causing almost every Corn Belt State to leak soil carbon while scientists at Iowa State University and others report that half our corn belt soil has been lost. (See a new Vision for Iowa Agriculture by Francis Thicke PhD.)

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