"Chicken farms housing millions of animals threaten a fragile ecology"
"On a drizzly day in May, Maria Payan walked along a country road in Somerset County, Maryland, near her home. On one side of the road was a white house with a peaked roof and an American flag flying from the porch; a ride-on toy tractor was parked by the front steps. On the other, a row of six long, windowless metal buildings housed tens of thousands of chickens. “Oh, the smell is so bad,” Payan said. “Can you imagine living with this every day?”
The houses on this quiet stretch of road are hemmed in on all sides by industrial chicken farms—all together, 30 chicken barns, each holding 50,000 animals at a time, new chicks replacing the fattened-up animals every two months or so. In roughly three square miles near the town of Princess Anne, 7.5 million chickens are raised and trucked to slaughter every year.
In the past decade, hundreds of these enormous poultry farms have sprung up on the flat, low-lying Eastern Shore of Maryland, and on the sliver of Virginia that encloses the lower Chesapeake Bay. Most of the land in these rural counties is zoned as agricultural-residential. Half a century ago, that meant a picture-book farm with a dozen cows and a few chickens scratching in the yard, surrounded by fields of corn and hay. Today, Payan said, there’s nothing to prevent an absentee owner from building a dozen sheds and raising animals under contract with a giant agriculture corporation like Perdue or Tyson, just a few hundred feet from someone’s front door, where they foul the air and local waterways. That’s why she cofounded the Sussex Health & Environment Network with her son to rein them in."