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Chicken Nuggets and the Death of Watersheds

Chicken Nuggets and the Death of Watersheds


Chicken nuggets, chicken burgers, buffalo wings, fried chicken, Double Down chicken burger—chicken in all its edible forms floats through our imaginations and into our hungry stomachs. The two-legged, heavy-breasted, factory-farmed birds now provide the most popular meat in America. In its new report, “Big Chicken,” the Pew Environment Group puts the numbers to the environmental cost of that growing appetite.

The statistics are staggering. Consider these from the report:

  • In 1950, more than 1.6 million farms raised just under 600 million chickens for the consumer market.
  • In 2007 just over 27,000 farms raised 8.9 billion chickens.
  • Virtually all broilers are raised on contract within 25-35 miles of the mills that provide their feed and the processors that dispatch and package them.
  • The Broiler Belt stretches “from eastern Texas through Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and much of the Southeast and north to Maryland and Delaware.”

That’s a lot of chicken manure in a concentrated area. While a good source of nutrients for crops, especially nitrogen and phosphorous, the staggering heaps of manure are far too much of a good thing. The excess nutrients create major environmental headaches.

“Big Chicken” points to the Chesapeake Bay as an example of the scope of the problem. While agriculture is only one contributor, “In May 2010, the EPA reported that an estimated 19 percent of excess nitrogen and 26 percent of excess phosphorous were directly linked to animal manure in the watershed.”

Poorly managed manure and inadequate regulations have led to significant losses of resources such as rockfish, blue crabs and oysters. Data shows “that more than half of the streams in the watershed are rated as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor,’ bereft of snails, insects and other low-level organisms critical to a healthy aquatic environment.”

The Chesapeake Bay is only one watershed. Everywhere Big Chicken and its Big Ag relatives operate, the same story is repeated. The Pew report concludes industrial agriculture must reform its practices, and regulators must put teeth into their oversight.

The “Big Chicken” report calls on public officials to put a stop to the industry’s often-repeated threat to move operations to states with minimum pollution safeguards. These threats serve only to undermine efforts to protect water supplies and rural communities, and to force elected officials and policymakers to establish ‘race to the bottom’ standards that benefit no one.”

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2:22AM PST on Dec 20, 2011


4:45PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011


7:25PM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

NO to factory farms!

5:14AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

Thanks for the article.

12:01PM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

Stop factory farming: problem solved.

12:57AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

finger lickin' chicken sh't

12:56AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011


11:54PM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

Stop Factory farming!

7:09PM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

eg: 'To produce one pound of beef, it takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. If all these costs were reflected in the price of the product, WITHOUT SUBSIDIES, the least expensive hamburger in the US would cost US$35.' ~John Robbins.

3:12PM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

Heartbreaking story for those poor chickens and the environment---Please, Please,Please become vegetarian if you are not already one. That would be the biggest impact you could make to heal the planet.

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Recent Comments from Causes

Darlene wrote: "......ethics is BIGGER than us human beings...." What??????????? Where did it come from?…

There is no excuse for this! Absolutely unconscionable!

OOPS, that would be whoring, not shoring... but I think you knew what I meant.

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