Bad news! An egg producer wants to open a concentrated-animal-feeding-operation (CAFO) in Otsego. This facility would house 480,000 egg-laying chickens in horribly unsanitary, crowded, and cruel conditions. Mlive reports: “People who have moved to the country for peace and quiet and clean air crowded the township hall at the commission’s Dec. 15 meeting to express their concerns.”
As usual, the CAFO owners are promising new jobs—even though CAFOs are highly automated and specifically designed to keep all costs, including labor costs, at rock bottom. The reality is that CAFOs create few jobs, and those jobs they do create tend to be poorly paid and abusive.
Contrary to many people’s belief that eggs are a humane food, there is more “death-per-calorie” in eggs than nearly any other animal product. One reason is that the 50% of newborn chicks who happen to be male (and, thus, non-egg-laying) get snuffed out shortly after birth. In some ways, they’re the lucky ones, since life for the females is an ongoing torment. The company proposing the Otsego CAFO is a distributor for van de Bunte, which claims to raise “happy chickens.” A Harpers reporter visited one of their supposedly “enriched” barns in November and reported:
- “The air is dense with dander and dust and the smell of chickens and their ammoniac manure. The entire barn is bathed in dim, purplish lighting….Flakes of feed, dander, feathers, and excrement waft through the barn and settle over the cages. The dust gathers and accumulates, turning into a dense coating of grime that attracts flies and makes it hard to breathe. Cleaning chemicals could kill the hens, so the barns are deep-cleaned only every year and a half to two years, when a bird colony is sent to slaughter….[Farmers] set up enormous vents at the front of the barn and giant fans at the back to draw the ammonia – laden air out and fresh air in, but this process creates different problems. The fans blow bits of feather and excrement out into nearby communities, forests, water, and preserves, destroying habitats. In one recent case, the ventilation fans of a 3 million – hen farm sent nearly 5 million pounds of pollutants in the direction of a wildlife refuge a mile down wind.”
“The sound of 147,000 chickens is sort of an overwhelming roiling moaning or droning, and it reaches the ears in what I can only describe as layers….The hens scuttle away from us as we pass, trampling one another with alarming violence to get to the backs of their cages.”
The Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club has a good page on the environmental damage caused by CAFOs.
Please don’t participate in the violence of eating eggs. You don’t need them for your baking, and your arteries don’t need their unhealthy cholesterol at all. And please join us at the next Otsego planning meeting on Tuesday, February 2, at 7:00 p.m. at the Otsego Township Hall to speak up for the locals and the chickens against exploitative agribusiness.