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.
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.
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.
I was excited to go to Georgie Cartanza’s farm. I’ve only seen the inside of a chicken house on the internet. A few summers ago I worked at the camp for the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture & Food. The campers were allowed to hold a chicken if they wanted to. They lived in chicken coops out in the fields. The campers were allowed to run around with the chickens without having any sort of protective gear on. I was caught off guard a bit when we were required to wear the suits. Once I heard the reason was because it was to protect the chicken from any diseases we could bring in, I understood why it was a good precaution.
I learned that her poultry farm creates one ton of manure per 1,000 chickens, per flock (4 and a half flocks a year.) Considering there are so many poultry farms around the U.S. I became curious about what they did with all that manure. Specifically, Ms. Cartanza sells her manure to a nearby dairy farm that uses it for nutrient management. I’m glad she gave the advice now, while I’m still in college, to take some business classes as she has realized how important it is to at least have a basic understanding of business.
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.
On Saturday September 22nd, 2018 we went on a trip to Georgie Cartanza’s organic broiler farm in Dover, Delaware. We started the visit by sitting outside of the houses and listening to Georgie talk about her broiler farm and told us about the work she does to keep it going smoothly. After she told us about her farm we had to put on disposable coveralls, plastic booties, and hairnets to prevent us from bringing in any unwanted diseases. Once we all had them on we went into one of the chicken houses that still had chickens in it. It was interesting seeing the differences in this house compared to the one I had been in when I was in elementary school since it didn’t have all the advances in caring for chickens as this one had. Inside of the chicken house was 37,000 chickens and it didn’t have a bad scent in it since there is a ventilation system installed that keeps the air moving and helps keep the chicken house cool. Some of the technology she has in her chicken house to care for the chickens are nipple waterers, gravity powered feeders, and a control room where she can monitor and manage the environmental conditions in the chicken house. She also mentioned that she can access the information on her phone so she knows what’s going on in the chicken house even when she isn’t on the farm. After seeing the chicken house with all the chickens in it we got to see an empty one that they were getting ready to clean. In it were some chickens that didn’t get picked for processing and they will be humanely euthanized and placed into an ecodrum for compost. The ecodrum is a more efficient way of composting since it aerates the material by rotating it. It was an amazing trip since this was my first time seeing an organic broiler farm and getting to see the new technology they use to care for the chickens. I also had the opportunity to hold a chicken and had my picture taken. Thank you, Gerogie Cartanza for giving us a tour of your farm.
I was very sad to not be able to attend the field trip to see Georgie Cartanza’s poultry operation. I think it would have been very interesting to see how her operation ran and looked, compared to my poultry operation back at home. After hearing about the field trip I thought it was really cool how Georgie kind of fell into the poultry industry, after working for Perdue. Today, it seems like a lot of producers/farmers usually go into the industry because of family ties. So it was cool to hear that. Also, it was really interesting hear that her one piece of advice for someone who wanted to enter the poultry industry was to take business classes. This particularly stuck out to me because in trying to decide my post high school plans, it was the fact that many farmers in my area strongly encouraged a business education before returning to the farm. So it was really cool to hear that Georgie also recommends this and that it is an important thing to have. Those two pieces of the field trip were what stuck out to me the most. Despite not actually being there, it sounded like Georgie runs a top notch operation!
Coming from a farming background with my family that raised chickens in the outskirts of Frankford. I thought I knew everything there was to know when It came to chickens. Then when the lecture began with Georgie. we learned about how the industry started off with a mishap with instead of a lady getting 50 chickens she received 500. Then how the industry grew from taking 9 weeks for a chicken in the 50’s to weigh only 905 g then in 2005 it was up to 4,202 g in weight over 9 weeks. From that people began to think farmers were pumping them with steroids and hormones. which is not the case the farmers and hatchery’s began to look into the genetics that’s were they began to breed the chickens to the best rooster and hen.
I began explaining some of the topics we learned in the lecture with Georgie Cartanza to my father that took care of the chickens on the farm he was very surprised and so was I that how much the industry has changed. Like how much less you have to do to keep the chickens comfortable and not being to stressed. You could control your heating and or cooling of the house by smart phone instead of having to go in and change it all by hand. One major thing I learned was that in organic poultry farming that the chickens can’t get any antibiotics if they are sick. So they may take a big cut since they can’t sell there chickens. Also that they can have the chickens go outside of the chicken house which is cool. In a way it is kind of scary because they are more likely to get Avian influenza. which can spread and your farm has to be In quarantine. There is so many new things that I learned from her can’t wait to she her farm soon.
On Monday September 10th, 2018 we had a guest speaker in AGRI 130. The guest speaker was Georgie Cartanza and she was giving a speech on The Evolution of the Poultry Industry in Delaware. Georgie Cartanza is an organic chicken farmer in Delaware and a Poultry Extension Agent. Her speech started with her talking about the way her chicken farm was before it was an organic chicken farm and then she talked about the changes and mentioned some of her experiences she has had within the industry. Later this month we will have the opportunity to tour her farm. One thing I found interesting was the way the poultry industry started was by chance. In 1923 the Steele family had placed an order for 50 chicks but received 500 instead. Now DelMarVa (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) is responsible for producing 605 billion chickens annually. Another thing I found interesting is the way the building for the chickens has changed and had new ideas implicated for various reasons like the triple decker chicken house which was designed to be three stories tall but was done to save land space. My favorite fact was from learning more about organic requirements. Some of the requirements for being organic are outside access with a water source, vegetative buffers, and my favorite that you need enrichments or toys for the chicks to play on.
As AGRI 130 is my first official agriculture class, I didn’t know what to expect out of Ms. Cartanza’s speech. She talked about how many people are misinformed about agriculture in general because of social media and other outlets, and I’d say that I definitely have been misinformed. In the past I watched the documentary called Food, Inc. and forever have had the image of chickens being sloppily kicked or thrown around. I thought that chickens were in confined spaces and were generally being treated very poorly. This is the link that shows a scene from the documentary where they show the inside of a poultry house late at night- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enwU5jIXSlU. The scene I am referring to starts at around 2 minutes and 20 seconds. I am now learning that this just isn’t how the industry is, especially when it comes to organic farming.
I’ve learned that with today’s technology, it is much easier for chickens to be comfortable. As Ms. Cartanza brought up, farmers should want their main source of income to be as comfortable as possible. Nowadays, they can have one panel that can control the temperature easily. This makes the lives of farmers easier and more productive as they now don’t have to go around and individually change the speed of each fan they have. Another misconception of the industry is that chickens are meatier because farmers are giving them steroids. When in reality this has happened through natural selection and the farmers mating the characters that the consumer wants. It is important for people to understand how the industry actually operates before deciding if they are for or against it.
It is no secret that the agriculture industry is widely diverse in enterprises. However, agriculturists have been united by a common motivating principal: the industry must innovate in order to feed the rapidly growing global population. This idea was echoed by Georgie Cartanza, the State Poultry Extension Agent for the state of Delaware. Throughout her guest lecture it became very clear that despite various misconceptions, agriculturists have been intently working to satisfy the needs of consumers, growers, and livestock in the most efficient way possible.
Delaware’s poultry industry has not always been what is today. Ushering in the growth of the industry has been the development of associated technologies. Chicken houses were once small, naturally ventilated, and requiring of hand feeding. The chicken houses of today are now much larger, tunnel ventilated, and largely automated. The environmental control exhibited by users of tunnel ventilation allow for growers to create a much cooler, cleaner, comfortable, and healthy growing environment for the birds. Advancements made in genetics and nutrition have also allowed for increased bird size. All these factors together, the poultry industry in Delmarva is reaching new levels of productivity, while conserving economic and natural resources.
Not all consumers, however, are fortunate enough to listen to an expert of the industry, such as Georgie Cartanza, give insights on the methods of production. Many consumers make judgments on what to buy based off media reports of “factory farms” and “hormone” filled chickens. As Georgie explained however, growers do not use hormones or steroids in production at all to begin with. Additionally, growers invest significantly to ensure that their birds are comfortable and healthy. Finally, growers are required to meet various sustainability standards of production. As advocates for agriculture, it is crucial to seek out experts like Georgie Cartanza so we can revitalize the image of agriculture in today’s media.
On Monday organic chicken farmer Georgie Cartanza spoke to our class about the poultry industry on the Delmarva peninsula. Ms. Cartanza has over 25 years of experience in the poultry industry. She is an Upfield Scholar and has travelled around the world studying other poultry operations in other countries.
She started off by telling us about the Delmarva poultry industry and how it was pretty much started by accident when in 1923 Ms. Steele ordered 50 chicks but was delivered 500. She made a lot of money selling her chickens and others started similar operations and it’s just gotten bigger from there. Next we learned from her that Sussex County is the highest in broiler production per square mile and Delaware produces 31% of the regions poultry. The economic impact of the poultry is huge and creates many jobs in and outside of the industry. Delaware chicken farmers have many choices of integrators to contract with making the market very competitive.
With all this talk of industry Ms. Cartanza talked about technology and how the chickens are treated. “If we don’t take care of them [chickens], they won’t take care of us [monetarily]” Ms. Cartanza said in reference to the false idea that most farmers mistreat their animals. Recently there’s been a social trend in people knowing what’s best for how their food is raised based on what the modern media has showed them. Ms. Cartanza used the example of people wanting to be humanitarian and not eat chickens that have been treated with anti- biotics. “If a flock were to get sick, wouldn’t it be in humane not to give them anti-biotics?” She asked us. There’s lots of examples of “humanitarian” ideas that don’t help and may even harm the animals.