Although I have been involved in the Agriculture Industry all my life, I’ve never had the opportunity to see the poultry industry and the amount of work it takes to manage a chicken farm. Knowing very little about the industry, I was personally amazed by Georgie and how she must pay attention to fine detail to have the best production possible. I also didn’t realize how sensitive chickens are to temperature. With an increase in technology, Georgie can give the chickens the most ideal environment for growth depending upon their age. I also really enjoyed seeing the new technology for manure and waste at her farm. The new technology composts the dead birds and manure more efficiently than if it were placed in bunks. This field trip was by far one of the most educational and eye opening experience I have ever had.
On Monday, September 9th Ms. Georgie Cartanza stopped by to give a guest lecture. She mostly spent time talking about the ways that poultry farming has changed over the years as well as how the perception the general public has on poultry farming differs from the reality of what is going on on farms. She showed us an image of the size of chickens from decades ago compared to chickens from the current day. She claimed how the media portrays these drastic changes as the effects of pumping the chickens full of steroids and hormones when in reality these changes have come from decades of improvements in genetics and nutrition. The economic effects were also touched on. She claimed that for each Poultry industry job created 7 more jobs in the community are also created. On top of that, she talked about how different regulatory groups place different regulations and requirements on poultry farms that can make it much more expensive and economically challenging to run a poultry farm.
On Monday, September 8th, Georgie Cortanza came to our class to give a guest lecture. The Saturday before, our class had visited her poultry farm to learn a bit more about the organic poultry industry. She came to our class to give a more in depth lecture about the organic poultry industry. She went over the history of the poultry industry. In 1862 the Morrell Act was formed to establish land grant colleges. In the 1850s railroads were built in Delmarva to transport crops and animals around the northern east coast, and in 1916, the Dupont highway was built to make it even easier to transport goods.
In Delmarva, there are 3 states, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, made up of 3 counties in Delaware, 8 in Maryland, and 1 in Virginia. There are 9,000,000,000 chickens produced in the US each year, and 825,000,000 of those are produced in Delmarva. That’s a lot of chicken. Georgie also talked about how many processing plants there are in Delmarva and how Perdue was the first family to ever brand their chicken. Now all we see in grocery stores is branded chicken. Georgie emphasized that when you have opinions, you should always look deeper into why you have those opinions and you should keep an open mind to other opinions.
Ms. Georgie Cartanza who is an organic chicken farmer came and shed some light on many different aspects of chicken farming. During this lecture I learned a lot of things that I had not previously known before, for example that Delmarva produces 9.6% of the nations poultry production and grows 605 million birds a year. Now this really surprised me because in comparison to the whole country the Delmarva area is not very big but still has a huge impact on the nations poultry industry. Another fact that I found interesting was that for every 1 job in the poultry industry it creates 7 jobs in the community. During this lecture Ms. Georgie talked a lot about technology and how that has become such a crucial aspect of chicken farming today. She explained how she can control the entire chicken coop that she has on her farm just from one electrical box and she is able to control all the heat, cooling and ventilation as well as many other things all from one this one box. Ms. Georgie also explained how chickens themselves have changed over the years due to the breeding of the birds, in 1957 it would take 56 days to grow an almost two pound bird but today a nine pound bird is able to be grown in 56 days. Overall I really enjoyed this lecture and I learned a lot of things I had not previously known about the poultry industry in Delmarva.
On Monday, September 9th, Mrs. Cartanza, a producer of organic poultry, came to present her views and knowledge about the poultry industry in class. Her decision to produce organically was a financial one, and some of her main talking points were about dispelling myths about the inorganic poultry industry.
Firstly, she addressed the topic of the substantially larger size of the chickens now compared with those of the past. Many believe that this is due to putting hormones and steroids into them. However, according to Mrs. Cartanza, this is not the case. She assured us that the size of the chickens is due to years of selective breeding, and steroids/hormones are not involved in the process.
She then stressed the point that, people should not vilify the farmer who adopts new technology into his or her farming routine. She pointed out that many times farmers face scorn just for using new technology because people often view it as unnatural or inhumane for the livestock, while oftentimes this is not the case, and the technology actually just helps the farmer while not affection or improving the health of the the livestock.
On Saturday, September 7th, I visited a poultry farm that used techniques to produce organic chicken. I was a meat farm that had four large houses, each with openings to let the chickens outside during the day (a prerequisite for a poultry product to be considered ‘organic’). The farm was run by a woman named Georgie Cartanza, who introduced us to her farm and to the poultry world with a presentation that went over the industry’s history and possible directions for it’s future.
At the farm we witnessed the processes that create organic chickens. For instance, they need shade structures in their aforementioned outside area, structures like ramps and bully bins for play, windows for natural light, and they need a diet of non-GMO food.
Doing these things (and more) allow her to sell her product at a higher price because it is organic, however, there are many downsides to producing this kind of product. Because the chickens can be outside, they are more vulnerable to predators, and the feed for the chickens is more expensive. Due to the pros and cons of each method of production, poultry farmers must decide if organic chicken production is worth it and more profitable for them.
A few days after we visited Georgie’s farm, she stopped by Carvel Center to give a lecture about the evolution of poultry farming on Delmarva and the challenges that poultry growers face due to negative public perception of the poultry industry.
Every aspect of poultry farming on Delmarva has changed in some way since its inception, from the way the birds are housed, fed and watered to the technology used to monitor temperature, feed and water consumption. The size of the chickens has even changed, with birds having quadrupled in size over the last 70 years.
While these changes have revolutionized the poultry industry, some of them have garnered a negative public perception of the industry. For example, the quadrupling in size of chickens has led some outside the industry to accuse growers of using steroids and growth hormones. In truth, the increased size is due to selective breeding.
Between our visit to Georgie’s farm and her lecture, I feel that I now have a more comprehensive view of the poultry industry and the myriad economic and environmental challenges that growers face, as well as their continual fight against negative public perception.
My visit to Georgie Cartanza’s organic poultry farm began with a brief presentation of the poultry industry in Delaware. We were then taken on a tour of the farm, including the chicken houses, the composter and the generator shed, which holds one of the most vital pieces of equipment on the entire farm. In the event of a power failure, Georgie explained that she has approximately 20 minutes to restore power using the generator before the chickens begin to suffer adverse effects, up to and including death.
There was a large fenced area between each house which allows the chickens to roam freely during the day once they reach a certain age. They are provided with shade structures to keep them out of the sun. This playtime, along with several other specifications, are required to grow organic poultry.
Inside one of the houses, Georgie discussed how the chickens are fed and watered, as well as the role of tunnel ventilation and temperature control, which is closely monitored through a central control system. She explained that it’s much easier to use this relatively new piece of technology as opposed to manually controlling the temperature in each house.
It was interesting to hear that the chickens are provided with wooden ramps to climb on, and that the lights are turned off for several hours each day to provide them with a period of time to rest.
While I have been exposed to bits and pieces of the poultry industry since I was a kid, I have never been presented with such a comprehensive view of the poultry industry. I greatly enjoyed my time at Georgie’s farm and found her to be very informative.
It is so glad that Mrs. Georgie Cartanza was invited to came to our class to talk about the evolution of the poultry industry on Delmarva where produces 9.6% of national production. I learned many interesting things about the history of the poultry industry. For every 1 job in the poultry industry it creates 7 jobs in the community. It is quite different about farm between today and past in many aspects. Today poultry farms have automatic pan feeders, nipple drinkers, solid walled houses and so on. Those advanced technology improve the chicken life and save time and cost for the farmers. Chicken nowadays can grow more fast than the past, some people may think that it is because of the hormones and steroids. But that theory is false. There is improvements in genetics, nutrition, housing and technology which cause the achievement that chicken can grow up to 4,202 g in 56 days. It is so important to be mindful of the truth behind the information edited by social media. The information may be the one that they want people to know, not the truth.
On September 7, 2019 the entire class took a trip to Dover, Delaware to visit a poultry farm. Though I grew up not too far from this farm, I never new of it’s existence. The farm is owned by a Ms. Georgie Cartanza, a Nuffield Scholar and the current University of DE Poultry Extension Agent. Ms. Cartanza began the trip by introducing herself and sharing a bit of backstory. She told this to us while we sat on a makeshift amphitheater of sorts made up of packages of pine shavings set up on the concrete heavy-use pad in the shadow of a barn used for storage.
After the presentation, we were presented with Personal Protective Equipment- intended more for the chickens safety than our own- in the form of rubber booties, coveralls, and hairnets.
Looking quite stylish and now rendered unable to sneak-up on anyone, we loudly rustled and awkwardly shuffled around the other side of the barn where we saw the EcoDrum and the product of it’s ‘in-vessel composting process’.
Opposite the barn, we could see behind up an identical structure with a manual composting drum.
After marveling at the innovative composting technology we walked over to the actual chicken houses themselves. We got to hear about the technology used to run the chicken houses, namely the Environmental Controller- revolutionary device that allows a single farm to take care of 37, 000 chickens. A prominent part of that technology, displayed broadly on the sides of all the houses, are the large fans to bring the temperature of the chicken house down when necessary.
We also learned about the pasture areas between the houses and the advantages and disadvantages of allowing chickens to roam in the yard. Not yet in use with the young chickens were ramps, hanging water dispensers, bully boxes, ramps, and shade structures. Along with the man-made shade structures were natural shade structures of cattails running down the center.
The culmination of the trip was the experience of holding baby chickens- these particular chicks were a mere two days old, still bearing the pink streaks of the tinted spray vaccine they received before arriving.
The class, joined by Ms. Cartanza, didn’t leave Dover before stopping for lunch at Chik-fil-A- paid for by the Professor. We parted ways with our host after lunch to return to the Newark campus.
The Newark class section would see Ms. Cartanza again, albeit remotely, for Monday’s first class guest lecture.
Graced by Ms. CARTANZA’s presence yet again, she both repeated and elaborated on some of the finer points she had made on the field trip.
Having had extensive experience in the poultry industry as a field supervisor, waking up anywhere from 4-7am and working 50 hours a week minimum, to working as an employee at Mountaire teaching people how to build two times bigger, better chicken houses, Ms. Cartanza still had a wealth of knowledge to impart.
Working as an organic poultry contract farmer, for Perdue’s organic Division Coleman, Ms. Cartanza shared some of the logistic and political issues surrounding the operation of her farm and organic poultry farms in general.
Because contract farmers compete for their contracts with different companies, growing their chicken competitively. Ms. Cartanza’s in a smaller 20acre farm, one of many strewn about the state and the peninsula, but with ¼ of the U.S. population within eight hours of her location, she maintains an edge on the competition. Delaware is not the leader in broiler production, but it does have the most broilers per square mile, with the largest organic processing plant in the country.
The poultry not only has to generate income for the company, but also pay for the capital involved in producing it- the cost of four chicken houses is much more expensive that the land they’re placed on, coming in at over $1.5mil whereas the acreage was just $20, 000. The biggest expense Ms. Cartanza said she faced after chicken feed was her mortgage and electric.
She, as a Nuffield scholar having spent time in Brazil as well as Mexico, Cornell, Ireland, & France, had not just a local Delmarva or U.S. perspective on poultry farming, but a global one.
Ms. Cartanza said a lot of the expenses and adjustments she must make around her farm don’t necessarily come from government agencies as a result of scientific study, but from the uniformed masses and their personal feelings on what makes chickens, ‘happy’.
For example, Ms. Cartanza said she has a manual composter that’s worth $12, 000 and is capable of processing 1.5 flocks, while her Canada-made EcoDrum, with it’s inverse-composting can process 5 flocks with less time and effort from the farmer. The new equipment isn’t really necessary, but it looked good to environmentalists. Chickens purportedly need 4-8hrs of darkness for melatonin production, but that may not actually help the birds at all.
Another example would be the way chicken houses have been restructured over the years. Ms. Cartanza pointed out while we were at her farm, that the window sizes on the building had to be upped due to evolving public sentiment around the amount of light chickens require to be, ‘happy’, but not necessarily healthier. The larger windows decrease the R-value of the overall house, while the transition from curtain-sided to solid-sidewall houses increase the R-value.
Outside the houses, in the pasture area, Ms. Cartanza must provide shade-areas, buffers, and enrichments that can take the form of patches of warm season grasses, like cattails and miscanthus, trees, like hybrid willows, and toys, like ‘bully boxes’ and ramps. Some of these additions, like the buffers, can help remove harmful particulates from the air, appeasing nearby neighbors, but the grasses can also add to the difficult of managing the chickens environment, creating dense growth that chickens can hide and be lost to the farmer in.
Once the 2-day-old chicks we interacted with reach three weeks old, they will have the option to go outside the chicken house. Allowing chickens to go outside makes them more at risk for predation and contamination from other birds and their droppings in the pasture that could carry Avian Flu virus. The chickens will instinctively stay inside at high noon when they are most visible from overhead, but they also seem to be most comfortable in the artificial, but regulated environment of the houses. The houses are kept at 92degrees F° via large tunnel ventilators that suck out the 8btus of heat that each chicken produces and also blows cool air through the chicken houses, protecting the birds from heat exhaustion by extracting body heat
The organic process also has restrictions on how it maintains the physical health and the environment of the chickens. Ms. Cartanza is permitted to use substances such as oregano, apple cider vinegar, copper sulfate, boric acid, and liquefied citric acid to care for the chickens.
Technology allows Ms. Cartanza to care for 37, 000 chickens more or less independently, but years ago that would have been impossible. That relative ease allows Ms. Cartanza to theoretically fed 780, 000 families from the output of her farm.
People who don’t like the poultry industry might be hard-pressed to find fault with the jobs it creates or how it helps the local economy- for every 1 jobs in poultry, 7 are created in the wider community. Labels in marketing are also used to sway public opinion- ABF or ‘Antibiotic Free’ chickens applies to any U.S. chicken, as the chickens must be cut off of any antibiotics 2 weeks before processing; NAE or ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ sounds good in theory and may appease animal welfare groups, but allowing chickens to potentially suffer for the sake of the label is debatable; and Organic chicken means a chicken is free-range and feed only GMO free feed from organic certified ground, which means additional organic corn and soybeans must be sourced from foreign countries like Argentina and Turkey, increasing the carbon footprint of the organic. The Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a coalition of vegetarians formed by Whole Foods that can threaten chain restaurants and businesses that don’t sell the type of meat they sign-off on, and other political figures with specifics leanings
Genetics, nutrition, housing, and technology have contributed to increasingly larger chickens. In 1957 chickens took 56 days to grow 2lbs,- today a modern chicken can reach 9lbs in the same amount of time. No steroids used- selective breeding makes larger chickens. Maturing in about 20 days, they are able to evolve faster.
Ms. Cartanza stresses the importance of environmental stewardship, saying poultry farmers don’t want their farms to be unhealthy or toxic places- they raise their families on the farm. They also don’t want suffering or dying birds- lost birds means a loss of money. At the sound of an alarm, a farmer may have to wake up very early, climb a grain bin, run to restore power, or confront a predator or pest- they may have as little as 20minutes to save a flock in the wake of natural disaster of power failure. She mentioned CO2stunning used in a Milford poultry plant to put chickens to sleep before processing- must be alive to process.
Ms. Cartanza says the next big issue facing poultry farmers after the nutrient pollution of waterways will be air quality, though the sustainably of poultry farming itself, whether from an economic or environmental standpoint will be debated as well. A big part of farming in general is the effect it has on the environment. Farmers can be easy targets, when only 2% of the U.S. voters farm and of that number most face more strict regulations on how they farm than a golf course owner or someone with a residential property applying a myriad of various chemicals to their properties.
For Ms. Cartanza herself and her farm, her next big challenge might just be eliminating some of her power costs, one of her biggest expenses as previously mentioned, at $5, 000 a month. With a housing unit for an off-grid 20,000V power generator, Ms. Cartanza may consider going solar next. A solar power system would take 15 years to pay off an might last for 25-35years. A part of the farming process is weigh risks, and Ms. Cartanza deemed the risk too great.
Regardless of an individuals approach to poultry farming, or working in general, Ms. Cartanza reminds the class of the importance of maintaining humility and, ‘doing little things well’. She also reiterates the importance of vetting the news and the science and not discounting another person’s views. Even though she grows organic, she did it to follow the market and industry’s trajectory towards increasingly organic foods. Ms. Cartanza did say she will buy and eat conventional chicken and has noticed no difference in quality. She also states it is impossible to feed the world organically- in 2050, 9bilion people are projected to inhabit the world.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip and the lecture. Some memorable events include:
- One chick slated to be euthanized later by ethical/humane cervical dislocation, i.e., ‘wringing it’s neck’, possibly due to an error in the in-egg fertilization process where a needle is placed through the egg shell 3days before the chicks birth which may have caused ‘Star-gaze syndrome’, piercing the birds’ spinal cord
- Holding a 2 day old chick in my bare hands that could barely stay awake
- Learning that, contrary to what I had read previously, chickens are still caught by hand and live-hungèmachines were not as successful as hoped
- Perdue tried for 1yr, but the results still were not as good as the 7man team that can take up to 4 6.5lb birds in each hand & can earn up to $30,00 a year catching poultry 6days a weekèEurope is often a few years ahead of the U.S. as far as tech
- The Chik-fil-A lunch that followed where I saw a WW2 vet
It is really cool learning about the of poultry farming and also present day poultry farming from someone who is so passionate about what she does. One thing that stood out to me was how it was all started accidentally. One woman started poultry farming in Delaware and now we live in a time where chickens out number Delaware residents 200 to 1. It’s crazy to think that in just the Delmarva area 605 million birds are produced and it definitely won’t be slowing down anytime soon as the worlds population just keeps rising. Chicken won’t get us all the food we need but as Mrs.Cartanza showed us chickens are very efficient in there feed to body mass conversion the only thing more efficient is a fish. Being on Mrs.Cartanza’s farm and then hearing her speak to our class I could really tell she is very passionate about what she does. She is also on a mission to stomp out any false data out there and she has definitely helped me see that farming is not as bad as the media portrays it.
Last weekend, September 7th we had the opportunity to go to a chicken farm in lower Delaware. While at this farm we were able to experience first hand the environment that chicken farmers work in and get a small peek into the industry. As we spent our Saturday morning and afternoon there, topics such as extension, the poultry industry as a whole, Delmarva poultry industry, politics, and much more was discussed. I particularly enjoyed the statistics that was shared involving jobs as 1 job in the poultry industry creates 7 jobs in the community in Sussex county. It was incredible to see the beginning process of where our food comes from, I could not get over how many chickens are grown on one farm here in Delaware. Furthermore, I found it to be very interesting that the farm is an organic chicken farm where a lot of the regulations put into place are from a consumer standpoint rather than scientific. The trip was very eye opening, especially to someone who has never been educated on the poultry industry. I feel like I better understand another area of agriculture and am more well rounded. I was unaware of how many different variables go into chicken farms and how critical electricity is and keeping the chickens alive.
On Saturday, September 7th, our class visited Georgie Cartanza’s poultry farm. As a class we broke down many common misconceptions of the poultry industry. Some of the largest being the use of hormones and antibiotics to make the chickens grow larger rather than years of breeding and ideal growth conditions. We then had the opportunity to explore the chicken houses first hand filled with chicks that just arrived days ago! One of the neatest things I learned during the trip was the constraints of organic vs. ordinary poultry farmers.
On Saturday, September 7, my classmates and I traveled to Dover to visit Georgie Cartanza’s Organic Poultry Farm. I enjoyed this field trip a lot because I saw how dedicated Georgie was about raising these organic chickens. For two years in High School, I took care of our chickens. From only working in a little chicken coop, it was nice to witness someone doing it on a larger scale. Here on Georgie’s farm, she has 4 chicken houses. Each contain 37,000 chickens (Ross 708), which is equal to 148,000 chickens on the farm. These chickens are straight run Broilers, meaning that 50% are girls and 50% are boys. In regards to taking care of these birds, it takes a lot of time and hard work to get these birds in the right conditions for them to be processed. Although there was mention of mortgage payments, electricity bills and feed costs, not once did Georgie complain. She kept a huge smile on her face, and continued to educate the class about her poultry farm. I could tell that Ms. Georgie loves what she does, which is something that I admire about her. This field trip was a great experience for me, and it was interesting to learn about what goes on inside an Organic Poultry Farm!!