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Miller Seeks to Expand in Organic Broiler Production

31 May 2013

MICHIGAN, US - An application has been made by Miller Amish Country Poultry to construct eight new broiler houses for organic chicken production.

Miller Amish Country Poultry has filed an application to build a massive broiler growing facility for over a quarter of a million chickens in Noble Township near the Indiana-Michigan state line, according to Daily Reporter of Coldwater, Michigan.

The application filed in April with the Michigan Department of Agriculture indicated the company will construct eight 60-foot × 660-foot broiler barns.

Mark Tilbury, live production manager for the company, said four barns will be constructed first and will employ a manager and three to four employees. The initial building investment would be around $1.7 million and could reach $4.4 million.

In December 2012, Miller Poultry Investments purchased 90 acres at 774 Greenfield Road from Amish couple Leander and Anna Keim, who farmed and ran Greenfield Blacksmith. The price listed on public records was $450,000.

Miller has a large chicken processing plant less then six miles from the farm on Indiana S.R. 327 south of Orland, Indiana. Mr Tilbury said this is one reason for the location, which will produce organic chickens. The feed will come from a new organic certified mill in Saranac.

Having the plant close will help with the "animal welfare certification" for the operation.

Mr Tilbury, a Michigan State University graduate, told the newspaper it takes just six weeks to raise a bird to five pounds for slaughter. The Orland plant processes between 450,000 to 480,000 chickens a week.

The company hatches its own chicks and originally placed them primarily on Amish family farms. It has since moved to larger operations and now has more than 100 growers raising between 10,000 and 240,000 birds per farm throughout the region.

The company also will construct a building measuring 60 feet by 48 feet, which will be 10 feet deep in order to hold the manure produced by 252,800 chickens. Neighbours have expressed concerns about the smell. Mr Tilbury said unlike cow or pig manure, chicken manure is dry. It will be composted in the building and heated to more than 134 degrees, which will drive off the nitrogen to cut the ammonia smell.

Mr Tilbury has three farmers who have signed letters of intent to take the compost for use on their fields as fertiliser.

The Miller family began farming in Elkhart County, Indiana, in 1942, moving into ducks and turkeys. In 1974, they began in the chicken business.

The company promotes that "The birds are raised inside naturally-ventilated, curtain-sided houses and are free to roam on open floors. They are fed an all-vegetable, drug-free diet and are hormone- and antibiotic-free."

Mr Tilbury said while the numbers of chickens processed seems large, Miller is the smallest of the country’s chicken producers, accounting for only one-half of one per cent of the US market.

Michigan’s Right to Farm Act does not allow local control of farms. The law reads: "A farm or farm operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the farm or farm operation alleged to be a nuisance conforms to generally accepted agricultural and management practices according to policy determined by the Michigan commission of agriculture."

Mr Tilbury told Daily Reporter that all the company’s operations and contractors in this state comply with the generally-accepted agricultural and management practices (GAAM) certification.

ThePoultrySite News Desk

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