Since its inception in 2001, Perdue AgriRecycle has helped rid poultry producers of more than 860,000 tons of litter and converted the waste into usable organic products.

Through the AgriRecycle operation, Perdue Farms goes to poultry growing operations and removes the waste free of charge, Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue said at the Poultry Processor Workshop on May 15.  Once the litter is converted, rather than being a potential contaminant to the area water supply, it becomes a helpful resource for companies like Scotts, Espoma, Davisson Golf and Wedgworth that make lawn and garden fertilizer products.  

Helping producers protect resources, operations

One of the biggest environmental issues the poultry industry faces is what to do with litter. In Maryland, where Perdue Farms has multiple operations, there are strict regulations on how waste is managed and kept away from water sources.

Perdue cited a case where the Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, filed a lawsuit against Hudson Farms, one of Perdue's growers. The alliance alleged waste from the Hudson property was polluting the Chesapeake Bay and Pocomoke River. Though the suit did have a near-devastating impact on the Hudson operation at the time, it was eventually dropped by the court.

Perdue AgriRecycle seeks to help poultry producers avoid that type of turmoil, Perdue said.

Benefits go beyond bottom line

The AgriRecyle venture has not yet been directly profitable, but Perdue believes it has helped the company's overall image. The judge who heard the Hudson case is one person in particular who now has a better perception of Perdue Farms, Perdue said.

"The judge was very impressed. Sometimes there are side benefits," he said.

It is increasingly important for poultry processors to have endeavors that protect the environment, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is good for the image of the companies and the industry as a whole.

"Consumers, customers and communities are the new regulators in our industry," Perdue said. "They want to know what you're doing to impact the environment, locally and/or in a bigger way."

Share the good news

Acting in an environmentally responsible way is only half of the job. Perdue urged processors to share stories about the good things they are doing, just as he did during the workshop.

"People trust farmers, but they don't necessarily trust agribusiness. Our job is to get the word out," Perdue said. "It is a changing world. Somebody will define you, unless you go out and actively define yourself."