Like Manure for Chocolate

October 7, 2010

Impossibly bad New York Times article on one Indiana egg farm that’s implemented an advanced manure processing system. The article quotes the farm’s president saying that thoroughly dried out chicken manure smells like—get this—chocolate. Mmm, I love chocolate.

Here are a few pertinent topics the article fails to cover:

  • The living conditions of the 381,000 chickens packed into this henhouse.
  • The percentage of U.S. eggs that come from buildings with this sort of advanced manure treatment technology in place. I’d be shocked if this figure turns out to be greater than two percent.
  • The cost of one of these treatment systems. It’s curious, to say the least, that even at the egg farm being profiled, this manure system has apparently only been installed in one of the barns. Are these systems actually affordable enough that a substantial percentage of egg farms will actually install them?

You know how anytime a major newspaper runs a story of animal cruelty at factory farms, they always quote some lying industry representative claiming things aren’t really that bad? Well, this piece quotes nobody outside the egg industry. And I have a tough time believing that nobody from the Waterkeeper Alliance or HSUS was available to take the reporter’s call.

For all its problems, this article does reflect one of the cautionary notes I sounded in Meat Market: that activists need to be careful about choosing which environmental issues to discuss because, in many cases, there are technologies that may come online to address these concerns. It appears that’s happening where egg industry manure is concerned, but whether the system described by the Times is affordable enough to widely implement is another question.

In any event, while this Indiana farm threw a lot of money at their manure problem, none of this cash improved the welfare of their battery hens in any meaningful way.

Finally, this technology seems specifically developed to work with battery facilities. And if California, Michigan, and Germany, are any indication, it may only be another couple of decades before battery cages are banned throughout much of the developed world. Link.

Previous post:

Next post: