Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nitrogen In, Nitrogen Out

Dr. Neal Barnard just gave me a new way to think of the Gulf of Mexico, a "discolored, malodorous Porta-Potty":

Save the Bay, Save Your Life, Dr. Neal Barnard, The Huffington Post, May 16, 2011 (He's referring to the Chesapeake Bay here, but mourns what we're doing to the Gulf too.)

I don't know if it's better to let agricultural run-off flow into streams, rivers, and gulfs or to block it so it seeps into groundwater. I can't imagine we'll suddenly stop using so much fertilizer.

The nitrogen-in part, the part where we add nitrogen to soil to help plants grow, was bad enough. How do we manage the run-off? But it was the nitrogen-out part that made be squirm:
"The problem is not just fertilizer, though. Poultry manure--high in nitrogen and phosphorus and produced in enormous quantities (650 million pounds per year in Maryland)--also pollutes rivers and disrupts ecosystems. Innovative chicken farmers have found a way to get rid of some of it: Believe it or not, they feed chicken manure to cattle. As long as cattle feed is no more than about fifteen percent manure, cows do not balk at it."
Just a second.
Photo of Lee Richardson standing next to a manure shed on his chicken farm in Maryland is from a revelaing little sideshow that accompanied this NYTs article:
In Maryland, Focus on Poultry Industry Pollution, New York Times, November 2008


Laurie Endicott Thomas said...

The bacteria in a cow's stomachs can turn the urea from the chickens' urine into protein, which the cow can then digest and absorb. In other words, chicken droppings are a cheap source of protein for cattle.

Cattle can do this trick because they are ruminants. Humans and pigs and other "monogastric" animals can't get appreciable amounts of protein that way.

Of course, feeding droppings from one filthy, crowded population of warm-blooded animals that have routinely been fed low doses of antibiotics to another filthy, crowded population of warm-blooded animals that have routinely been fed low doses of antibiotics is a recipe for breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Manu said...

I suspected they were feeding livestock processed shit... but not this literally

caulfieldkid said...

This just brings a whole new twist to the Chick-fil-A ad campaign. Cows endorsing "chicken nuggets" indeed. . .


Bix said...

Manu, I'm still laughing...