Georgia may be making a killing as the country's largest chicken producer, but its success comes with a cost: environmental degradation and threats to human health. A new group—Georgians for Pastured Poultry—says it's time to turn the tide on an industry that's doing serious harm to the Empire State of the South.
Georgians for Pastured Poultry (GPP)—comprising farmers, chefs, animal welfare activists, environmentalists, and health professionals—has one goal in mind: moving factory farmed chickens to greener pastures.
The group, which will be releasing a detailed report on the state's poultry industry on February 9, is pushing for a shift away from Georgia's factory farms, which are responsible for producing 2 million tons of poultry waste annually. That waste washes into waterways, contaminating land and water and causing foodborne illness and antibiotic resistance among humans.
In its report, GPP will also describe the leg disorders and heart and lung problems suffered by broiler chickens who struggle to support their unnatural body weight—a consequence of selective breeding to produce extra large birds.
"Georgia raises and slaughters some 1.4 billion chickens every year—more than any other state," Leah Garcés, USA Director of Compassion in World Farming and lead GPP founding member, tells TakePart. "We came together because we believe we have a right, even a responsibility, to ask: At what price are we number one?"
Exactly how GPP plans to make the switch is unclear. To that end, the group is organizing a lunch for interested parties to coincide with the release of its report, hoping to put heads together to plan a path toward sustainability.
Whatever the route, GPP is confident that the market is ripe for change. According to Garcés, farmers' markets in Georgia have increased by 600 percent since 2005, a sign that Georgians are interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it's produced.
"This is way beyond the national average," says Garcés. "We think we are on the cusp of big change here in Georgia. "
Read more about the GPP's plan here.