TOP STORY, July 26, 2016
Perdue awaits organic broiler in Cecil Co.
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
The embrace by Perdue Farms of its newly announced organic and animal care production systems has hit a bump in the road in Cecil County.
There, a couple near the community of Zion, wants to erect four houses to raise certified organic chickens for Perdue.
Until recently, there had not been a commercial broiler house in Cecil County for 30 years.
The project has attracted a protest from citizens in the Zion area who fear the poultry operation’s impact upon their environment and their way of life.
A couple, Galen and Crystal Horst, have applied to Cecil County authorities for the necessary permits and are awaiting approval.
One department determination, approving the project, arrived last week.
The Horsts have been farming their England Creamery Road land for nearly 14 years.
They have five children and said they hope to provide a future in farming for them and continue in the Horst family tradition.
That future includes the proposed organic, free-range chicken operation.
The construction project, which would transform their former cattle farm into an organic broiler operation, would involve four large broiler house on the 209-acre, agriculturally-zoned site.
More than 100 neighbors showed up at a recent meeting at the American Legion hall in Rising Sun to make plans to fight the Horsts’ proposed chicken operation.
The group aired fears about about air and water contamination, health issues, damage to the water table, odors and other concerns.
Cecil County, it should be noted, is not accustomed to large broiler farms. Until very recently, there had not been a broiler operation in the county since the 1980s.
The Horst farm would be the second, and the first north of Route 40.
The Meck farm off Route 213 near Earleville, which is nearing completion, has two houses also for organic production. It is south of Route 40.
Perdue’s reach into Cecil County is occasioned not by the need for more chickens but the need for more space for those chickens.
Authorities explained that under the company’s newly adopted production system, there are less chickens per house.
The birds are provided outdoor free range access, as well as less crowded indoor conditions
Julie DeYoung, Perdue’s director of communication, assured neighbors of the Horst farm that “today’s poultry houses are better designed to provide not only a good growing environment for the chickens, but also diminishes the odors.”
Computerized controls keep the houses at the correct temperature throughout the life cycle while also holding down ammonia levels.
Chicks will arrive at the houses a day after hatching.
DeYoung said the chicks will spend seven weeks at the free-range organic facility where they will be fed and watered.
Once reaching seven weeks old, the birds would be shipped to Milford, Del., for processing.
At that time, the houses would be cleaned and prepared for the next new arrivals.
“There are no antibiotics except to treat a sick flock,” DeYoung said. “The birds will have outdoor access. We provide food and water outdoors and provide shaded areas to encourage the birds to go outside.”
She said both male and female birds are raised in a humane fashion, adding no beaks are trimmed.
“The houses are designed to provide a good environment and good ventilation,” she said.
At the end of a 644-word statement and after turning for assistance from their colleagues in broiler-wise Worcester County, the Cecil County Health Department has provided its blessing to the Horst’s planned construction.
The final paragraph of the three-page document read: “In summary, the Horst chicken house proposal exceeds regulatory and recommended standards for placement of the chicken houses, and will have a comprehensive review of its handling of manure and livestock before placement of birds can occur. It has been designed to minimize health and aesthetic impacts on the neighboring communities.”