Counting on … day 1.070

13th March 2023 

“Campaigners warned [2019] that the clear waters of the Wye, one of Britain’s best-loved rivers, were being blighted by thick green algae blooms linked to poultry production. Many of the intensive chicken farms in the catchment area of the Wye supply Avara Foods in Hereford, which is the third largest poultry producer in Britain and is jointly owned by the American food business Cargill. It is claimed that vast amounts of manure from chicken farms supplying Avara and other food businesses are washed into the Wye, contaminating the water with excessive phosphate levels that fuel the growth of algae blooms…

Cargill has operated in the UK since 1955 and purchased a major poultry processing plant in Hereford, more than 40 years ago. In 2013 it announced a £35m investment in the plant to increase production of fresh chicken, and five years later it combined its fresh chicken operation in the UK with poultry business Faccenda Foods to form Avara. New intensive poultry units – each housing at least 40,000 chickens – sprung up to meet the demand, and between 2013 and 2017 the number of birds in Herefordshire increased from 13 million to 18 million. 

It is now hoped stricter controls and new practices, supported by Cargill and other operators, will help reduce the Wye pollution. Some farms are installing biomass boilers to generate heat from chicken manure, while other farms are sending the poultry litter to anaerobic digestion plants.”

How sustainable is our current meat focused diet? Is there scope for change that can create a better world?

Counting on … day 1.068

11th March 2023

“ Haweswater’s wildlife is … being given the chance to make a full-throated comeback, thanks to interventions made by the RSPB, in collaboration with its landlords, the water company United Utilities. The project partners have reduced sheep numbers by 90%, from more than 3,000 two decades ago to about 300 today. They have also planted more than 100,000 trees, restored 400 hectares (988 acres) of peatbog, and “rewiggled” a valley bottom stream so it can reoccupy its natural flood plain. Webb resists the idea that Haweswater is a “rewilding” project, however. “It’s still a working farm,” says Webb of the site’s two farmsteads in the valleys of Naddle and Swindale. “We’re just doing it less intensively.””

A different world is possible!

Counting on … day 1.067

10th March 2023

“Livestock  produce manure which, when mixed with urine, releases ammonia, a nitrogen compound. If it gets into lakes and streams via farm runoff, excessive nitrogen can damage sensitive natural habitats by, for example, encouraging algae blooms that deplete oxygen in surface waters.” 

This is a particular problem in countries and regions where there is a high concentration of farm animals such as in the Netherlands. In December 2021 the Dutch government “launched 13-year multibillion-euro plan,[ which] includes paying some Dutch livestock farmers to relocate or exit the industry, and helping others transition to more extensive (as opposed to intensive) methods of farming, with fewer animals and a bigger area of land. It will start as a voluntary programme, with compensation offered to livestock farmers asked to leave. “In the end, it might be necessary to stop negotiating as a last resort, but the basis is voluntary,” said de Groot. The end result is expected to be close to a one-third reduction in the numbers of pigs, cows and chickens in the country.”