Chicken Farms Voluntarily Operating Under Litter Plans, NCC Survey Shows

The nation’s chicken producers are moving quickly to implement a voluntary plan to improve environmental management at the farm level. Two-thirds of the farmers who grow chickens for integrated chickens producer-processors are now operating under litter management plans, considered the key to proper environmental management, and an additional nine percent are in the process of obtaining plans, according to a survey by the National Chicken Council.

The survey also showed that chicken companies removed 35 million pounds of phosphorus from feed in 2001, thus removing a significant amount of the phosphorus that would otherwise end up in litter. Phosphorus is believed to contribute to nutrient imbalance in lakes and streams.

NCC took the survey to measure the industry’s progress in putting into effect the “Environmental Framework and Implementation Strategy for Poultry Operations” adopted by the National Poultry Environmental Dialogue in December 1998. The Dialogue was a roundtable process involving industry organizations and government agencies.

“The survey shows that the industry has taken the Dialogue process and the Framework very seriously and is moving expeditiously to implement the Framework and do our part in protecting the environment of the communities in which we operate,” said Dr. James E. Marion, Technical Advisor to NCC.

Poultry growers are encouraged by the program to use litter or manure in accordance with a professionally developed management plan, Dr. Marion said. The plans are based on soil and litter samples and other scientific data and must be developed by qualified persons, most often professionals employed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Growers who do not yet have litter/manure management plans are expected to apply for them. Company-owned farms are also expected to develop plans. Of company-owned farms, the survey shows that 98 percent have plans in place.

Twenty-six companies representing 92 percent of all the chickens produced in the United States are voluntarily participating in the program, and all 26 responded to the NCC survey. NCC reported the results of the survey to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Because of the 100% response level to the survey and the high number of participating companies, we believe this survey presents a very clear view of progress in the industry,” Dr. Marion said. He added that he had no reason to think that the companies with eight percent of production that were not included in the survey were significantly different from that companies that responded.

The survey also confirmed that companies are continuing to explore creative ways to deal with litter and make use of its nutrient value, Dr. Marion said. Companies are composting litter to produce fertilizer, mulch, landscape products or soil amendments; participating in transportation plans to send litter to areas of lesser concentration where it can be used as fertilizer; constructing plants to turn litter into dry, pelletized fertilizer; and using litter as a fuel energy source.

National Poultry Environmental Dialogue:
Growout Farms Associated with Participating Chicken Companies:
Litter/Manure Management Plans in Place or Applied For, End of 2001

  Contract Growers Company Farms Total
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Plans in Place 15,866 66.1 285 98.3 16,151 66.5
Plans Applied For 2,055 8.6 1 0.3 2,056 8.5
Combined 17,921 74.7 286 98.6 18,207 75
Total in Category 24,005 100.0 290 100.0 24,295 100.0
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Address media inquiries to: Tom Super

Senior Vice President of Communications

[email protected] 202-443-4130