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.
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.
On Saturday, September 7th, our class went on a field trip to a poultry farm run by Georgie Cortanza in Kent County, Delaware. She has 4 chicken houses which hold 37,000 chickens a house and 148,000 chickens in total. They weigh 913,900 pounds a flock. A flock is a certain number of birds in one group. She has 5.5 flocks in one year and makes 5,000,000 pounds a year. In total, she feeds 59,808 people a year. Georgies runs an organic farm, meaning that all the chickens there are free range. This means that they get to go outside for a period of time each day.
Chickens are one of the animals that have a lower carbon footprint. The only one lower is fish! The carbon index for chicken is 6.2 versus cows which is 16.2. A chicken also requires less feed for an outcome, which makes it better economically for the farmer. For every 1 job in the poultry industry, it creates 7 more jobs.
My favorite part of the field trip was seeing the baby chicks of course. They are very soft and fun to hold.
“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.
On September 22nd, the AGRI130 class visited Georgie Cartanza’s broiler farm located in Dover, Delaware. Upon arrival everyone was sat down outside and listened to Georgie give a presentation on how and why she got started in the industry and what she actually does on the farm. The farm is an organic farm that grows for Coleman, an organic integer. Next the students were outfitted in PPE, which consisted of plastic coveralls, a hair net, and plastic booties. This precaution is to help prevent any diseases the class could have brought in from spreading to the chickens.
It was very interesting when the students had the chance to enter into two of Cartanza’s chicken houses. One was fully occupied while the other was empty. The differences in the two houses was really intriguing. Without the chickens inside it became glaringly obvious how vast the houses are. Each house on her farm is 600 feet long by 65 feet wide. To put that in perspective, each house is almost two football fields long! The houses themselves were surprisingly super cool inside. Each one has a ventilation system and fans to help circulate the air through the houses. Air is sent through about every 60 seconds. The chickens seemed very comfortable inside and had no desire to step outside when given the opportunity to do so.
Big thank you to Georgie Cartanza for allowing the AGRI130 students to come out and visit her 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.
Georgie Cartanza, an organic poultry farmer in Kent County, DE. Georgie has four 65’x500 chicken houses, each can hold up to 37,000 chickens, totaling up to 148,000 chickens on her farm during a single flock. Georgie produces over 5 million pounds of organic broilers each year by growing 5 and a half flocks per year. Chicken houses have advanced technology built within allowing farmers to control the optimal environment for the chickens during all stages of growth. Chickens themselves produce a lot of heat so the cooling system within the houses is important in keeping the chickens happy and healthy. For example, Gorgie’s houses cooling system can cycle the air in under a minute. Aside from the organic feed requirements, some of the organic requirements are to have enrichments within and outside of the house and to have outdoor access. Enrichments can be as simple as ramps and boxes.
So you may be thinking how does Georgie produce 5 Million pounds of broiler meat each year?
Well, that’s due to the advancements and improvements in technology, genetics, housing, and nutrition. No hormones and no steroids. Applicable to both organic and commercial poultry farming.
Also, what is done with all the manure generated?
Each year, 5 and a half flocks generate 4 million pounds of manure per year. That is about 1 ton per 1,000 chickens per flock. Then a nutrient-packed compost is made with the manure and mortality. That is then sold to a local dairy farmer as a fertilizer. The manure is improving the soil health and structure by providing vital macro and micronutrients to the soil.
On September 22nd 2018 the entire AGRI 130 class was very fortunate to go on their first field trip of the 2018 fall semester. The field trip took place at a poultry farm in the Dover area of Delaware. The tour was given by former guest speaker Georgie Cartanza. She started the tour by giving us an ample amount of mind blowing facts. For example the buildings that held all the chickens were 600 feet long by 65 feet wide each and she had four buildings on this particular poultry farm. She then shared with us that each building contained 37,000 chickens per house for a total of 148,000 chickens. The average age of the chickens was 7 weeks old with an average weight of 6.5 pounds. Thankfully she did the math for us and told us that it comes out to around 913,900 pounds per flock or 5,000,000 pounds of chicken a year. This sounded like an insanely large number at first, but then Georgie put it into perspective by telling us that the average person eats 83.6 pounds a year. The we walked through the buildings and see the chickens. Overall this was a good field trip and I am glad I was able to experience it.
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!
On September 10th 2018 Georgie Cartanza came to the University of Delaware as a guest speaker for AGRI 130. Before hearing all the facts about the Delmarva Poultry industry form Georgie, I had no idea how important and interesting the Poultry industry was. To start, I didn’t realize that the Delmarva Poultry industry included three counties in the state of Delaware, 6 counties in the state of Maryland, and 1 county in the state of Virginia. Delmarva has ten processing plants, thirteen hatcheries, and ten feed mills. Next I learned that the Delmarva poultry industry produces around to 605 million birds in a single year. That is about 10% of the national production. This industry is worth in the billions and provides roughly 14500 poultry employees with a job. I was also happy to learn that the industry was constantly changing to improve the welfare of the birds. They have been incorporating automatic pan feeders, nipple waterer, tunnel ventilation, and proper heating to increase the welfare of the birds. Overall I was very happy with what Georgie had to say and can’t wait learn more on our field trip.
On Monday September 10th, 2018 Georgie Cartanza spoke as a guest lecturer to the AGRI130 class. She touched on many issues and changes within the poultry industry, the focus being on the poultry industry in Delmarva. What was very surprising was how many birds are produced annually in Delmarva. The number being 605 billion birds produced annually. This is equivalent to 9.6% of the national production. Ms. Cartanza also touched upon misconceptions regarding the use of GMOs, steroids and chemicals. I was not surprised to hear that many people think this way. The truth to this is that the poultry industry does not use any of the previously mentioned items. Instead the change in the chickens is due to improvements in genetics and nutrition.
Another topic that was covered is the evolution of the chicken houses. More specifically, how the use of technology has greatly increased the welfare of the chickens. In addition, the current version of the chicken houses allow for the farmers to handle and monitor the feeding and cooling systems more efficiently.
Georgie Cartanza was extremely informative and is a great advocate for both the poultry industry and agriculture.
I always knew that the poultry industry was prominent in Delaware but I was unaware of the impact it has on feeding the east coast. Georgie was really great at explaining how it evolved and grew over time as well as stressing that everything that is done to keep the poultry process smooth moving and safe for consumers, farmers and chickens. I found the evolution of the chickens themselves to be most interesting. The fact that the birds look so different without the help of hormones and steroids is truly fascinating. It did take fifty years with a ton of improvements in genetics, nutrition, housing and technology but the poultry industry has come a long way. I also was happy to hear that the industry is conscious about the environment and that they are making changes in their practices to include things such as vegetative buffers and putting concrete pads near the entrances to help prevent ground leaching. I look forward to learning more about the poultry industry and our field trip this week.
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.
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.