Our trip to the organic Coleman chicken farm introduced me to a lot of technology new to me but what interested me the most was the new in-vessel composting system implemented at the farm named the ecodrum. The Ecodrum was a large black corrosion-free polyethylene cylinder that sat upon long rollers that would periodically rotate the composting vessel. At Georgie’s farm the Ecodrum was used to compost chicken mortality which was added along with pine shavings into the machine, after that the entire process is managed by an automated control system. This new innovation has not only cut back on the manpower required to compost dead chickens but it has done it in a way that reduces odor to a minimum. This technology is being widely implemented on poultry farms in Arizona but the unit at the Cartanza farm that we saw was the only one in Delaware.
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
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!!
On September 22, 2018 The Ag 130 class went on a field to Georgie Cartanza’s Organic Poultry Farm. On that tour she gave many incites into ho the poultry operation works and what her day to day life consists of when working on the farm. First off when we got to the farm we sat on her make shift chairs for us that was her pine shaving’s she uses. She touched base with us on some of the same stuff that she explained in her lecture that she gave to use before we came to the farm. Once that was over we got suited up in hair nets and white coveralls so we don’t take in any unwanted diseases and helping out with bio-security. Then once we got to finally get inside of the chicken house it was so bizarre to see so many birds in one spot. And still having plenty of room to move around and enjoy themselves. Then we went into the chicken house beside the first on to see what an empty house looks like its so odd how the house barely smell do to the ventilation system that they have in place at there farm and how well the vegetative buffers work to keep the odor down as well.
Delaware Farmer, Georgie Cantanza
Georgie has a wealth of knowledge in the poultry industry. As a guest speaker, Georgie was able to inform students on common misconceptions about the poultry industry. Georgie reminds students that the food industry altogether is ever-changing to reduce stress on the animals, farmers, and the environment. While producing a profitable product that consumers want.
Georgie is an organic poultry farmer overseeing and growing out 5 1/2 flocks a year on a four chicken house farm. Georgie was able to explain that although the chickens have access to the outdoors it is not always optimal for the birds health to be outside. The weather and bio security hazards can be reasons as to why the chickens are not always outside on an organic farm. Georgie explained that the houses are set up to the optimal atmosphere that satisfies the chickens needs. I look forward to visiting her farm and to see if there are any major differences in the production of organic vs conventional chickens.
Before went to Georgie Cartanza’s poultry farm, we had a lecture from her about the development of poultry farm and what kinds of misunderstanding from the public. Poultry farm was started casually. There were hundreds of eggs that had no place to go. A lady took them and grow them to chicken, then sold chicken meat. The chicken was sold out quickly and poultry house started.
Since the chicken is growing bigger and bigger, people may think poultry industry is using hormones and steroid. but the answer is not. What has really lead to the growth in the size of the chicken is they pick out the stronger and healthier birds and feed them good nutrition, and provide nice housing condition.
there is one more interesting fact to know: poultry company and grower work together to produce chickens. The company provides chicks, feed, propane, litter, health supplies, tech service. Grower provides equipment housing, labor, electric, overhead. Georgie Cartanza’s poultry farm is taking the role of the grower.
The First exciting trip is to visit Georgie Cartanza’s organic poultry farm. After listening to Georgie’s quick presentation, we got an idea of how to manage a poultry farm. We were lucky to get a chance to walk into the chicken house to see their living environment. We were given clean cloth and protective gear to wear outside of our own cloth. There is also a cleaning box for us to step on to clean our sole. It can tell us a message that they really love their chickens and chickens are protected well by workers on the farm. I kind of get an idea of where our chicken comes from and how they are taking care of. Chickens are free ranged and given plenty of food and water. I want to say thank you to all the workers in the poultry farm, thanks for providing healthy and nice chicken to us.
Georgie Cartanza came in to our class and gave a guest lecture on her experience in the poultry industry and owning a poultry farm. It was a very informative lecture, I previously knew very little about the poultry farming industry or where our chicken comes from. I was surprised to learn that for every job in the poultry industry, seven are created in the community. She explained to us how she started her poultry farm after working in the industry for many years, and how the poultry company provides a lot of the things she needs to run her farm efficiently. We also were told about the amazing technology that is used to control the ventilation and temperature within the chicken houses. Overall, Georgie gave us a lot of very useful information and gave me a much better perspective of where the chicken that we eat comes from. I was amazed at how it all works.
On November 4th, my class had the privilege of meeting the University of Delaware’s Newark farms superintendent, Scott Hopkins, who led the tour for us. We started the tour with an introduction to the dairy herd that supplies us our beloved UDairy ice cream. Scott Hopkins explained that the dairy herd was the most difficult and time consuming livestock on the farm due to the amount labor, time and research that goes into the herd. I found it really interesting to see how feed studies were conducted on a herd within by the use of ID collars that would sync with a specific feed bin that granted that specific cow access to its feed. This practice helps to conclude that technology plays a major role in livestock production. We then moved onto the poultry section of the farm where he explained to us why there were so many small shed-like houses. These are used for testing immunology and virolity amongst small flocks of birds. I think that this field of research is so fascinating and important, especially since the poultry industry is huge to the Delmarva area. Next, we ventured to Webb Farm where we learned about the beef management practices, equine practices, as well as the sheep practices. Currently, the farm is tracking estrous in the ewes and are monitoring breedings and whether or not the ewes take. They track this by recording which ewes have the color coded chalk on their backs – marking a mounting by the ram – and crossing the presence of chalk with their estrous cycles. Scott was very informational and provided a lot of insight into how much work really goes into running a successful farming operation. He was well versed and had a tremendously wide amount of knowledge. I learned a lot on this trip and I hope to continue learning more about management practices throughout my time here at the University of Delaware
Georgie Cartanza owns a poultry farm in Dover, Delaware, she has four houses, which each hold 37,000 chickens. She has been raising chickens for eleven years, starting out with roasters, but has now switched to organic chickens. Organic chickens have a lot more requirements such as the need for natural light, enrichments, outdoor access, and must be antibiotic free. Organic chicken feed comes from Argentina and Turkey and must be GMO free. No pesticides can be used around the houses, no outside water sources can be in the free range area, and when the chickens develop gut problems only oregano, vinegar, and other organic approved ingredients can be used. It is very clear how much thought Ms. Cartanza put into her farm, the fans on the houses are pointed in different directions so that they don’t blow towards neighboring houses, and she planted trees around the perimeter to create a vegetative buffer to further the air filtering. She switched to organic chickens because she saw the trend increasing and believes all growers will eventually be switched to organic. Ms. Cartanza is very passionate about what she does and has an abundance of knowledge about the poultry industry.
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to tour an organic poultry operation and to learn all about the ins and outs of it. Georgie Cartanza, the owner and operator of this organic poultry farm, was full of not only knowledge about the industry, but as well as wisdom that I will hold onto as I go throughout my life. I found this field trip especially valuable since I was able to apply what I have learned about the poultry industry, its management and the ever-changing market demands to a real life operation. Georgie explained to us that being an organic farm is a lot more work to keep up to standards as well as costs. The average cost of organic feed is 3x the amount of conventional chicken feed – she attributed this to the fact that organic feed has to be shipped to the United States from other countries due to the lack of profitability for farmers to grow organic feed in the states. Georgie also mentioned that with the ever-changing consumer and market, in a few years, she will have to implement more windows, more shade cloths and more enrichments to each house to satisfy the “organic” standards put in place. The poultry industry is always changing and advancing as technology increases and I’m excited to see where it shifts next. This field trip was a great learning experience and I throughly got a lot out of it. Ms. Cartanza is a very knowledgable woman and I hope I get to encounter with her again.
On September 9th, 2017 we visited Georgie Cartanza’s organic poultry farm. Once we had arrived to the farm, we were embraced by Georgie’s small presentation that consisted of details about her farm as well as the chickens on the farm. We were then able to suit up into protective gear, however, this was to protect the chickens, not us! Once suited up, we walked between houses 3 and 4 where we were able to view how the organic chickens were able to graze, as well as being able to play. To get a full understanding of how chickens are taken care of as they are grown, we were ble to enter a chicken house that consisted of 37,000 thousand chickens! Once being inside, I was able to see that the publics view on how chickens are raised may be off. The chickens are given maximum amounts of food and water, as well as very nice conditions in the house. After seeing life on a organic poultry farm, Georgie then preceded to give advice on how to become successful throughout life and that you get what you give. Overall it was a fantastic trip and learning experience.
This past Saturday, September 9th, I had the opportunity to go to a Poultry Farm. Georgie Cartanza has been in this business for quite some time now. She’s been growing organic chickens for the past 11 years and previously worked for Perdue. When it comes to growing organic chickens, they’re certain requirements and guidelines one must follow. This poultry farm consisted of four houses that were 65×600 feet long, each house had roughly 37,000 chickens in each house for a total of roughly 148,000 chickens. Each house had ventilation, air-conditioning, automatic water and food machines that filled up by itself, and lastly an outdoors area for the chickens to go out if pleased. Georgie produces enough chicken to feed nearly 60,000 families for roughly 5 million pounds of chicken a year. Going into this trip, I had knowledge about chickens but no knowledge of how poultry farms functioned rather just my own opinions. I figured the housing and conditions were nearly as bad as people thought, and once visiting these houses, I realized I was correct that the environment was nice. The housing was much cooler than I expected and as well answered many of my questions. One question being how they harvested these chickens? I thought possibly there was some kind of machinery that made it easy but Georgie informed us that all the chicken are caught by hand. My second question was how much room would the chicken have to move and such? And once entering the house you realize the size of the house is more spacious than you would think. Overall, the field trip was quite interesting, I never thought I’d ever visit a poultry farm but I’m glad I did for I learned greatly.
On Saturday September 9, our class visited the Organic Poultry Farm of Georgie Cartanza. Upon arrival, we were greeted with excitement and given a little presentation about her farm and other poultry farms in Delaware in general. I always knew that Delaware was huge on chickens, but it was really put into perspective for us. It was very interesting to hear how Georgie worked for more than one industry throughout her career for her own personal reasons, especially since I had never even heard of Mountaire and always heard about Tyson and Perdue. Along with information about Delaware poultry, Georgie provided us with advice for ourselves and our future, and I appreciated that a lot. We then got suited up and headed to the houses (37,000 chickens per house by the way)!
It was amazing to see how different it was inside there than it has been portrayed in the media. I expected lots of noise, chaos, wings flapping, etc. Instead, the chickens were eating, drinking walking around, and it smelled worse outside the houses than it did inside! It was also very funny to see that free range chickens do not even go outside, what with all the fuss over it.