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Sampler Platter 09.25.09

by: JayinPhiladelphia

Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 13:00:00 PM PDT

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  • The State of Oklahoma's lawsuit against the poultry industry for fouling (easy pun passed over, heh) the Illinois River watershed got underway in a Tulsa federal courthouse yesterday.  Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is suing Tyson, Cargill and nine other companies for violation of numerous state and federal laws.

  • Jim Hightower takes on local-washing and corporate-speak.  "Such 'down-home' companies as Unilever and HSBC"... lol!

  • The Humboldt jumbo squid that have been swarming the San Diego coastline all summer are now beginning to wash up as far north as the central Oregon Coast; a sardine mystery is being investigated on Oregon's North Coast; and US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco publish an Op-Ed on the government's Northwest salmon plan.

  • Here's another piece on the culture clash between the old and the new in New York City street food.

  • The City of San Jose, California has just passed what is called the nation's strictest bag ban. The ordinance will prohibit all retailers except for restaurants and nonprofits from giving out single-use plastic bags, and will only allow them to give out paper bags (which must be at least 40% recycled) for a fee.

  • Sustainable transportation news roundup: a census survey released today ranks Portland as #1 of America's 30 largest cities in terms of bicycle commuting, with 6.4% of Portlanders getting to work via bike, a jump of more than 50% since 2007; Streetsblog NYC makes the case for openness in MTA data to improve riders' transit experience; and the feasability study on reinstatement of Amtrak's old Pioneer Route (Seattle & Portland to Salt Lake City & Denver via Eastern Oregon and Idaho) has just been released.  Why is it that highways and airports are never expected to be self-sustaining, while rail transit always is?  It's long past time that we stopped leaving most of the West to the tyranny of compulsory private automobile travel.

  • The Bend-La Pine School District in Central Oregon is seeking to make its new elementary school one of the greenest public schools in the nation.
JayinPhiladelphia :: Sampler Platter 09.25.09
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Fantastic piece on... (4.00 / 1)
...the loss of our "Third Places" in America, and why virtual communities will never come close to replacing them.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name -

The TV bar, "Cheers," was a perfect, though fictional, example of one. The Paris café Les Deux Magots was a real one, and it famously drew artists and intellectuals such as Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. If you're lucky, you live near one, too: a coffeehouse, pub, barber shop or general store where you can visit anytime and linger. You'll see people you know and people you don't, and no one makes you leave 'til you're ready.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg dubbed them Third Places in his 1989 book, The Great Good Place. He wrote that Third Places (not work, not home) are "the heart of a community's social vitality, the grassroots of democracy." But in the U.S., he wrote, we've almost lost them, as people spend more time in cars, in shopping malls, or at home in front of a screen.

"Living Under Las Vegas..." (4.00 / 1)
Life in the flood tunnels under the strip -

"But it was tough and we started living under the staircase outside the MGM casino. Then we met a guy who lived in the tunnels. We've been down here ever since.

"I have my books, my CD player, crossword puzzles, some clothes and my picture of our son Brady, who was killed 11 years ago at four months old. The main dangers are the floods and the Black Widow spiders. But it's not a terrible place to be if you're homeless.

"It's much cooler than on the streets, we get a breeze coming through and the cops don't really bother you. It's quiet and everyone helps each other out down here.

Did you ever see a movie called Absolute Power? (4.00 / 1)
It's a medical mystery/drama kind of movie which starred Hugh Jackson and Gene Hackman. It had a homeless community that lived under ground.

Good movie, I think I'll dig it out and watch it tonight while I'm doing other things in the kitchen.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Nah, never heard of it... (0.00 / 0)
Kinda reminds me of the people in NYC who live down in the crevices of the subway system.  I think I've heard estimates (no clue how reliable they are) that there are hundreds of people who live down there, too.


O/t - Just checked the weather - yeesh, it's like we're falling off a cliff on Sunday!  80 Sunday, and then right down to 60 on Monday, 57 on Tuesday, and then mid-60's the rest of the week.  Rain, rain, rain, rain...

[ Parent ]
Just a thought on the poultry litter lawsuit (4.00 / 3)
If what's polluting the waterways is farm runoff, unless that runoff is specifically from the poultry farms, why are the integrators being taken to court?

Follow my logic on this.

The situation is that the waterways are polluted from excessive nutrients. Those nutrients came from runoff originating on fields where the poultry litter was applied. The poultry litter came from a broiler grower who kept it indoors composting or at least under a covered area or tarps. The grower raises birds for an integrator who in no way tells the grower how to dispose of the litter, the grower does that on his own. The integrator also does not tell the farmer how or when to apply the litter, composted or not, to his field. But it's the intergrator who gets sued for the pollution of the waterways?

I mean, I hope that everyone here understands that I am no fan of industrial poultry production, but the integrators, in this instance, really are not guilty of anything. It's the farmer who applies too much fertilizer to his/her fields and/or at the wrong time of the year, etc. It isn't even the broiler grower, unless he/she is applying it to their own fields innapropriately.

What I think I'm seeing here is a case in which the prosecutor sees deep pockets in the integrators, even though it's the farmer who is applying the litter to his/her field who is the actual polluter. But if a prosecutor goes after someone like that, not only will there be no money to pay a judgement, but the prosecutor would probably be pilloried for picking on a poor, put upon farmer.

I don't like factory farming, but I have absolutely no tolerance for scape goating.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

Perhaps that's how it works in Oregon (4.00 / 1)
but not necessarily everywhere. The Illinois River cleaned up because the integrators caused suspension of excess application in advance of this suit. It could be that, just as the integrator supplies chicks and feed and dictates every detail of the grower's operation, perhaps the integrator also has title to the waste? I don't know for sure.

In Maryland, although Jim Perdue controls his growers as strictly as Tyson and Pilgrim's Pride control theirs, it used to be that waste was applied to land under permit from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. That doesn't mean much, because the permits allow destruction of the Chesapeake Bay, but for the purpose of answering your question, I wouldn't think either grower or integrator could be sued in Maryland unless the permits were violated.

[ Parent ]
Destruction of (4.00 / 1)
the Chesapeake Bay, tributary waters, marshlands, etc.

[ Parent ]
integrator taking title to the waste (4.00 / 1)
is one possibility, and it also is possible that the integrator's contract with the grower specifies the method of waste disposal.

[ Parent ]
I'm on a Yahoo list for broiler growers (4.00 / 2)
There are people from all over the midwest and the south on the list and they've forgotten more about commercial poultry growing than I'll ever know. Some grow for Tyson, some for Perdue, a lot of them either do or did grow for Pilgims Pride.

The integrators can tell them how often to crust out the houses, although not always, but I've never heard of one telling the grower what to do with the poultry litter or crust. I've heard of them telling the growers to turn the litter and then put chicks in a house before the amonia is gone. In that case the amonia was so high that it blinded most or all of the chicks. The growers know better, but the integrator or their service people were the ones who ordered that. I've heard of the integrator and their service people applying a material to the floor of the house to control pests like darkling beetles which can be a problem in broiler houses. I suppose that feather mites could be a problem too, especially with young birds. I've also heard stories of the odd things that the integrators will make the growerd do, like putting paper sheets under the drinker nipples. If you've ever seen a bunch of little chickens, especially in loose litter, they'll scratch and tear up a piece of paper in no time at all. The only way to keep a chicken from scratching is to lock it in a cage where it can't stand up or turn around. When I have chicks out here that I'm brooding, I have to put the feed and water containers on pieces of plywood to keep the chicks from scratching bedding into the containers. They live to scratch. Any chick older than 3-4 days old will scratch and dig and forage even with out a mama to show it how. That's an innate behavior as natural as breathing.

All of the growers who I listen to view the litter as a valuable commodity and go to great lenghts to compost the manure and litter to make a more valuable product to sell. They're also careful to manage the amount of moisture in the litter. I don't know if you have any experience with manure piles, but if they aren't cared for properly they'll burn your farm down. On the other hand, if it doesn't have enough nutrients, people will buy it, put it on their field, and be pissed when they don't see any results.

The integrators are concerned with the birds, and I think that's it.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Do you know (4.00 / 1)
Who owns the birds and feed? Does a grower buy chicks and feed and sell grown chickens, or does the corporation own everything and just pays the grower so much per thousand for the service of raising the birds? Does this vary by corporation or by state?

Related question but in a different area, what is the farm to store chain for eggs? Are egg producers independent operators like dairy farmers, or indentured servants like chicken contractors? Is there a big (dominant) processor in the middle of the chain, like a milk processor or a chicken integrator?

[ Parent ]
Here's my understanding of the two systems (4.00 / 1)
For the broilers, the integrators own the birds and the feed. They tell the grower how to raise the birds, when placement will be, and determine pickup. The integrator delivers the chicks to the grower and sends catch crews to load the birds onto the truck to haul to the slaughter facility. To my knowleage the integrator owns the slaughter facility as well. The grower builds the houses that the birds are grown in, and while they have a contract with the integrator, and that contract may on the surface look like a long term contract, in reality it appears that the integrator has the right to cancel the contract at any time, so in reality, at least as far as I'm aware, most grower contracts are more of a flock to flock arrangement. Which is a hell of a deal when you consider thant the grower will take out a loan of $100,000 or more to build the broiler houses.

The growers get paid by weight, and are responsible for walking the houses and picking up dead birds, called morts, for mortalities. Commercial broilers grow so fast that they can experience a phenomenon known as 'flip over'. Our local feed store had info sheets on the care of broilers to avoid flip over. People purchasing cornish cross broilers, which is what is available at the feed stores, and I believe, the most common broiler. Buyers were advised to only feed 12 hours/day for the first few weeks of life. Flip over occurs when the bird has a heart attack, at least that's what I remember it being. Restricting feed to only 12 hours out of every 24 was to slow the growth so that the birds' internal organs could keep up with their rapid body growth.

I've raised broilers before and can attest to the rapidity of growth. It's nothing short of phenominal. You can almost see a day to day difference. It's like watching bamboo grow.

As far as the eggs go, the situation is similar, but the contracts are longer term. As I understand it, those contracts are actually year to year or longer. But I'm not very familiar with the layer contractors. I'm also not sure if the layer contractor owns the birds or if an integrator does.

When Pilgrims Pride went bank'o, a lot of the growers were left hanging. PP backed out on the contracts. Some were trying to figure out what to do with the grow out houses that they still owed lots of money on, with now no income. Some tried to get picked up by other integrators. I think some may have been successful, most I don't think were. Some were trying to figure out how to grow broilers independantly, but with out a slaughter facility they're pretty much up a creek. Some were trying to think of how to grow free range and sell direct to the public, but unless they set up something like Salatin and others have to raise broilers, then do the marketing, on farm slaughter, etc. that's not realistic. Let's face it, when you have a $100,000+ loan hanging over your head, you need more money now, not in 2-3 months after investing even more money to buy birds, set up for on farm slaughter, etc.

The hell of the deal with PP was that people were still being signed up and existing growers were being encouraged to upgrade their grow out houses as late as a month or less before PP declared bankrupcy.

I have absolutely no sympathy for PP, Tyson or any of the others. Foster Farms I cut some slack but that's only because I used to know a grower for them, and he seemed to be pretty happy with his arrangement. But that's only one grower. There was a FF grower who was blocked from building houses near our place, but it was the land owner who wanted the grow out houses, not FF to my knowleage. So I'm not going to bash them for what a private land owner was wanting to do.

I have a huge ammount of respect for broiler growers. It's really those people who fund the cheep chicken in the grocery stores. If the integrators had to build their own houses, and staff them with regular employees and care for the birds to the extent that the growers do, chicken would cost as much in the store as you pay for a good free range bird at the farmers market. And that ain't no joke.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
You are a font of knowledge and wisdom. (0.00 / 0)
Thank you.

[ Parent ]
either grower or integrator (0.00 / 0)
neither grower nor integrator

[ Parent ]
great discussion here (4.00 / 1)
thanks so much for the enlightenment

[ Parent ]
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