Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is a stunning area of great natural beauty. It’s a privilege to be here; to see this globally renowned area for myself.
I’ve been talking to some leading figures who tell me that the Bay is under threat. One of the biggest culprits is chickens…
There are now nearly as many chickens being produced in the three States surrounding the Bay as there were across the entire country sixty years ago. The vast majority of these are factory farmed. That’s an awful lot of birds in one area.
But how do chickens locked in long, windowless sheds harm something as vast as the 200-mile long Chesapeake Bay? Through the poultry manure spread on the fields.
I spoke with Bob Martin at the Johns Hopkins Centre for a Livable Future in Baltimore. He told me how enormous quantities of waste are being spread on the surrounding farmland. This leads to nutrient run-off that often ends up in the Bay.
The pollution can have a big affect on the natural life of the Bay, including periodic fish kills involving thousands at a time. It makes it harder for the once abundant oysters to grow. “Things are out of balance”, Bob told me; industrial agriculture is “the significant threat to environmental damage” in this area.
I also met up with Carole Morison, an industrial chicken farmer of 23 years, now much happier rearing laying hens on pasture. Carole was concerned about how farmers were being treated by big chicken companies, and about the environmental effects of intensive production. So she switched to what she calls “happy chickens”. Now, instead of complaints from customers, Carole has people ringing her up to say how great her hens’ eggs taste!