“The poultry industry is critically important to our economy; a lot of people don’t understand that” (Georgie Cortanza). 13 years ago, Ms Georgie Cortanza built four chicken houses that are 65ft wide and 600ft long, each of which hold 37,000 chickens per house and total to around 148,000 birds on the farm. Currently, in the chicken houses, are the breed Ros 708 broilers, that are grown in a time span based off of the consumers desire of the weight of the chicken meat they are purchasing; which is typically six and a half pounds and makes the bird seven weeks of age when they leave the farm. From this farm, 5 million pounds of meat is produced a year, which could feed about 780,000 families all due to the technology, tools, and procedures that are used on the organic farm. On this organic farm, and many other organic poultry farms, producers must follow certain standards of the USDA and those standards are the broilers are fed organically grown feed which mostly comes from the countries Argentina and Turkey due to the U.S. not growing enough organic plants for feed for organically grown chickens and the birds must be raised in a 92 degree fahrenheit temperature in the house which must be close or equal to when the birds are allowed access to the outdoor enrichment space with access to water from drips that hang from the ceiling as well as feed that are in small troughs lined up bellow them.
Enrichment is a part of the organically grown process which is driven by consumers; the broiler houses must have large windows to allow natural light to be in the houses and the birds must have access to enrichment tools both inside and outside of the houses. Outside of the houses, the birds on the farm have a fenced in area for the birds to roam and have natural shade for the birds to hide in. While inside, the broilers have enrichment ramps and bully boxes for them to “play” with. However, with the enrichment comes many risks, as when the birds are let outside, the flock in the house risks obtaining avian influenza that is transmitted from overhead migrating birds. From this experience, many things can be learned especially those unfamiliar with the organic farm and poultry farms in general.
Throughout this experience, I learned Ms. Cortanza and other poultry farmers, specifically organic poultry farmers, take on many risks to grow the most amount of poultry in a short period of time; as throughout this process, they may encounter predators from the outdoor space and the chance of the birds obtaining avian influenza which could cause the number in the flock to decrease dramatically. Also, throughout this experience, I learned something that grabbed my interest and that was the use of technology that Ms.Cortanza used that most poultry growers did not. Ms. Cortanza uses the in-vessel composter which allows her to produce more efficient and reliable manure that can help famers dramatically with their crops growth. I also discovered that the organic poultry industry was driven by consumers to increase their probability of purchasing the product. For example, the enrichment tools on Ms. Cortanza’s farm and many other poultry farms, were created and placed on the farm to create a “happy” behavioral environment for chickens which makes consumers feel better and more likely to purchase the chicken due to knowing the chickens were produced in a good environment. Overall this experience was very interesting and educating as the knowledge Ms. Cortanza provided myself and the other students within the understanding todays ag class is very important and can be used in the future to help educate others about the poultry industry and in our purchases for that specific product.