Are you wondering what environmental stew is? In setting up this blog, I Googled the phrase to check out how it has been used in the past. On April 20, the Food and Water Watch posted a blog titled, Perdue Farms: Environmental Stewards or Environmental Stew? Their use of environmental stew seemed to be more negative than how I’m using it (it’s just short for environmental stewardship), but I decided to read on.
The post slams the state of Maryland for awarding the Governor’s International Leadership Award to Perdue Farms. You might remember Perdue Farms was behind the recall of 91,872 pounds of frozen chicken nuggets this summer. The Perdue Farms website indicates they are the third largest poultry company in the U.S., with annual sales exceeding $4.6 billion dollars. That’s huge.
They couldn’t possibly practice environmental stewardship, right?
Under the About Us section of their website, there is a page on environmental stewardship. It talks about conservation through research, innovation, and community outreach.
Here’s a short list of the accomplishments listed:
- Cold cathode lighting in our producers’ chicken houses reduces energy use by 80%.
- Our Perdue AgriRecycle litter recycling plant has handled more than 500,000 tons of litter in its first seven years of operation.
- We’ve invested thousands of hours in producer education to assist our farm-family partners manage their independent poultry operations in the most environmentally responsible manner.
Perdue Farms refers to their producers as “farm-family partners.” This is interesting because many people opposing the company’s facilities prefer the term “factory farm.”
A Baltimore Sun article reports that Assateague Coastkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance used “factory farm” to describe an 80,000-bird facility run by a Perdue producer. Perdue countered, saying,
“Perdue owns no factory farms. Families that raise poultry for Perdue are independent farmers.”
When it comes to labeling farms, it seems like an either/or. Either you run a factory farm or a family farm.
We generate preconceived notions of these terms based on the visualizations they conjure, the ways we’ve heard them talked about in the media, etc. Often times the minute an article uses “factory farm,” our entire viewpoint of the operation is warped to imagine the worst.
So do Perdue producers run environmentally sound operations? It all depends on management. Not all factory farms are more environmentally damaging than moderate-sized farms. Often times large operations are actually more mindful of conservation practices because of the regulations imposed on them.
We can’t assume that big farms are always bad. Ask questions, do your research, and see exactly how large farms are incorporating environmental stewardship in their operation.