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The poultry industry's dirty secret [Letter]

Environmental PollutionPerdue Farms

I was disgusted to read Bill Satterfield's wrongly titled commentary on the poultry industry's role in Chesapeake Bay pollution ("Md. farmers are wrongly blamed for bay troubles," March 13).

The handful of large chicken companies like Perdue on the Eastern Shore are not "farmers." They are large corporate entities that take the lion's share of the profits and leave their own contract growers to deal with the problems caused by the chicken manure they generate. It's a way of distancing the corporations from the waste and degradation their system creates.

Mr. Satterfield throws a lot of numbers around to try to confuse the issue, but it's really quite simple: You can't have more than 300 million chickens concentrated in a geographic area the size of the Delmarva Peninsula without creating more manure than the ecosystem can handle.

Mr. Satterfield also fails to mention the unique and very advantageous relationships Perdue and other large chicken companies have with their growers. The companies control all aspects of the contract, own the birds and their feed, and dictate every aspect of the process of growing the birds. By design, the only thing they don't own is the waste — dead chickens and manure.

If Mr. Satterfield and the large poultry companies he speaks for really cared about Maryland farmers, they would take the responsibility of dealing with the pollution runoff from chicken manure off the farmers' shoulders instead of using them as props to hide behind.

Jeff Dicken, Baltimore

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