Monday, June 20, 2011

Great Points on the Environmental Benefits of Backyard FPAs

Stephen Fischer is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado, and a supporter of Sustainable Food Denver. He testified at the City Council public hearing on the environmental benefits of backyard Food Producing Animals. A number of the people sitting around me expressed an interest in what he had to say, so I asked Steve for permission to post his testimony on our blog. Thank you, Steve!

My name is Steve Fisher, I live in the West Highland neighborhood, and I’m going to talk about some of the environmental benefits of backyard chickens.

Denverites consume about 418,000 eggs every day.1  Where do all these eggs come from?  About 90% come from Colorado according to the Colorado Egg Producers Association.2  Nearly all these eggs are produced in about four confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, the largest of which can have up to 1.3 million hens, and produces about 1 million eggs a day.3  Can you imagine what that many eggs, chickens, and associated infrastructure looks like?  Now think about the manure.  A chicken egg CAFO of this size generates about 163 tons of chicken manure every day, basically in one large waste stream at a single location.4  By the way, the CAFO regulations start to apply to operations at just 30,000 hens.5 The chicken manure can degrade aerobically, resulting in concentrated releases of nitrates to the land and surface- and groundwater. Or it can degrade anaerobically, producing methane, which has about 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

In fact, the whole operation typically makes intensive use of hormones, antibiotics, energy, and water because it’s a factory.  And factories a) use resources, and b) pollute. The backyard chicken, in contrast, lives off of our household food waste, which helps divert a methane-producing waste stream from our landfills.  The chicken manure, at the household scale, is not a threat to human health but, in fact, can make for wonderful soil.  Every single backyard egg will displace demand for a factory egg.

So, if this ordinance passes, you will be thanked. First by a sizeable number of residents for making the backyard egg more achievable. Second, by the City’s Greenprint Denver program, for accelerating their goal of a 10% per capita greenhouse gas emission reduction by next year.  The backyard egg could reduce emissions at a rate up to 1.5 lbs of carbon dioxide equivalent per pound of egg.6  And third, the State of Colorado will thank you for doing your part to reduce the risk to our water quality and environment because they enforce the state’s CAFO regulations and federal Clean Water Act discharge regulations.

As leaders and decisionmakers that are called upon routinely to weigh potential risk against potential benefit, hopefully my talk and those of others tonight will give you a clear choice.

2.        La Junta Tribune Democrat. 2010. Ag Day at the State Capitol: Egg producers fly under the radar. March 26.

3.        Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE). 2011. Personal communication.

CDPHE. 2011. Personal communication.

1 comment:

John said...

I know a lot of folks who don’t eat eggs (they’re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here’s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs: