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Bird, environmental management reduce industry’s carbon footprint

1 October 2020, at 6:30am

Pressure to reduce poultry production’s carbon footprint presents multiple hurdles, but the industry is up to the challenge, said Joseph Giambrone, PhD, professor, Auburn University.

One hurdle has been the removal of growth-promoting antibiotics. Some of the antibiotics that were used helped gut integrity, and without them, there’s an increased incidence of enteric infections. That in turn decreases feed efficiency, so producers have to feed more. There are, however, solutions, Giambrone advised.

“Diet is the easiest place to start” with the use of additives such as enzymes and organic acids that help increase the absorption and utilization of nutrients to produce more growth and less manure, he said.

Major hurdle

Manure management is a major hurdle. “If you’re spreading too much manure on the fields, then that’ll produce gases, contaminate the water supply, things of that nature,” so more of the industry is utilizing windrowing in-house and composting outside of the house to reduce tonnage.

Other ways to reduce the carbon footprint created by poultry production is by planting greenery — grasses, bushes and trees — outside of poultry houses to capture organic matter and gasses.

Building new poultry houses or retrofitting older houses that are more energy efficient is yet another way to reduce the carbon footprint. More insulation and improved fan movement are two ways new or retrofitted poultry houses become more energy efficient, Giambrone said. He noted that some producers are building new, larger poultry houses instead of more smaller ones.

Although efforts to reduce poultry production’s carbon footprint come with a price tag and despite the challenges of the day, Giambrone sees a bright future for the poultry industry due to the rising demand for poultry protein. “We’re still producing high-quality protein, animal protein, at a lower cost than everyone else is,” he said.

He also credits the industry’s success to its responsiveness to consumer demands. “…if they’re wanting antibiotic-free, if they’re wanting cage-free eggs, what they need we will produce,” Giambrone said.