LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Correcting misconceptions about poultry industry

As a chicken grower, I try to correct the record when I hear people repeat myths about how I raise my birds. Recent letters in the State News have hit the usual high notes, calling farms like mine “toxic time bombs” engaged in “biological warfare.”

Here’s the real deal, though: Delaware’s chicken community has made great strides in adopting environmental practices that safeguard the environment. Delaware chicken farms follow science-based nutrient management plans to ensure the nutrients in our chicken litter are best used as organic plant food for crops like corn and soybeans.

By using vegetative environmental buffers, in-house litter composting and other practices, we’re protecting water quality as well as preserving agricultural land. Farmers’ care for the land is one key reason the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as measured by environmental groups, is better than it’s ever been.

In Sussex County’s own estuaries, the Center for the Inland Bays has said that “sustained phosphorus reductions are credited to improved nutrient management on farms.” We aren’t sitting back and resting, but the progress we’ve made is real.

One recent letter writer somehow got the notion chicken growers like me are an economic drain on the state, but the truth is, the chicken community empowers thousands of Delawareans. The chicken industry employs more than 4,200 people in Delaware.

The companies and individuals in Delaware who work to put chicken on plates paid $220 million in federal taxes in 2016, and paid more than $98 million in state and local taxes, according to Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.

And Delmarva’s chicken companies spend nearly $1 billion a year on crops like corn, wheat and soybeans — much of it bought from Delmarva farmers — as ingredients for chicken feed. (And no – chickens are never, ever fed artificial hormones or steroids, another popular misconception. It’s been flatly illegal to do so since the 1950s.)

Mack McCary

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