Perdue Farms: Environmental Stewards or Environmental Stew?
Once a year, the state of Maryland hands out a little something called the Governor’s International Leadership Award. For 2010, Governor Martin O’Malley bestowed the award upon Perdue Farms, Inc. Chairman Jim Perdue for showing, “financial strength, innovation in environmental stewardship and community outreach…” Wait, what? Environmental stewardship? That sound you just heard was the echo from the horrified screams of environmentalists across the Eastern Shores of Maryland. Is Perdue Farms to be commended when it comes to protecting the environment?
That must be why environmental groups like Waterkeeper Alliance and Assateague Coastkeeper are suing a contracted grower for illegally polluting the Pocomoke River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay, with chicken waste. Perdue responded the way a true environmental steward would in these modern times. In addition to trying to shift the blame from a pile of chicken manure to a pile of sewage sludge, the company first blamed environmentalists and the regulatory agency of the very state that just bestowed its Chairman with a shiny award.
Jim Perdue, himself, first claimed that they wouldn’t be getting hit with the lawsuit if the Maryland Department of the Environment would simply grant them a permit to discharge their chicken waste. So you see, as long as you have permission to damage the environment, it’s okay. That’s what a true environmental steward of the state of Maryland would do. The company now seems to be stepping back from this statement, saying it is really the sewage sludge that is the problem.
And when it comes to “innovation in environmental stewardship,” this may be an example where Perdue’s contribution is to let the burden of proper waste disposal fall on the shoulders of the growers they contract with to raise their chickens, as is often the case with such large operations. Perdue doesn’t have to worry about the waste issue because they don’t raise the chickens; the growers do! Not their problem. Besides, how much nitrogen, phosphorous, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria infused waste can 300 million chickens produce?
We wrote a little note to the Baltimore Sun, asking Perdue to step up and take responsibility for a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. The company responded by challenging our understanding of agricultural practices and then said that we don’t know what’s in manure. Well, we certainly know BS when we see it. This legal battle is stirring up some long-overdue attention to the chicken industry’s environmental impact, as the topic is quite controversial throughout the region.
Perdue just received Maryland’s highest honor, in part because of their supposed contributions to environmental stewardship. It seems they would prefer to celebrate minimal clean-up efforts, rather than to bone up and find some substantial solutions to the problem of water pollution in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, to which they largely contribute.
Rise to the occasion, Perdue! It takes a tough man to clean up tender chicken droppings.