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Perdue’s plucky strategy for a cleaner environment

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(August 1, 2017 – ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Anybody who’s tried to grow anything knows you need the right nutrients to keep a plant healthy – and that, sometimes, too much of a good thing turns bad.

Perdue Farms, a leader in chicken, turkey and pork processing, has been addressing the environmental challenge of nutrient and water management through Perdue AgriRecycle, the first large-scale poultry litter recycling plant.

“We all need to continue to work on protecting our waterways from nutrient run-off, but agriculture has come a long way,” VP of Sustainability Steve Levitsky said. “Our recent move to composting allows us to take in a wider variety of by-products of poultry production and processing as an alternative to traditional land application.”

As a result of these initiatives and farmers’ own management programs, Perdue AgriRecycle has already reduced potential nutrient runoff to the Chesapeake Bay by 85 percent.

Since food safety requires a lot of water, Perdue uses recirculating water cooling systems at its Salisbury soybean plant. It also conserves treatment energy with sequential start-ups and shutdowns. Those steps, plus a sustained conservation effort with farmers, suppliers and others, have reduced water use company-wide by 5 percent in the last three years.

The nearly 100-year-old Salisbury-based company’s commitment to a smaller carbon footprint comes from a sense of home. The family farmhouse, where CEO Jim Perdue’s grandparents raised their first flock, is across the street from the corporate office.

“Maryland is where we started, so it truly is home to our company,” Levitsky explained. “We recognize that we need to reduce our energy while continuing to provide the same, or more, products. So we have included energy reduction goals in our company’s environmental sustainability scorecard.”

The Delmarva Land and Litter Challenge is another component of Perdue’s effort. The participating grain farmers, poultry farmers, state and federal agencies, and NGOs evaluate and create solutions for nutrient issues.

“On the surface, nutrient management seems simple,” Levitsky said. “In reality, it’s a much more complex balancing act of getting the right nutrients, in the right amounts, to where they’re needed.”

Some improvements are visible; travelers on Route 50 can see the solar farm powering Perdue’s corporate office. Other benefits show up in the numbers.

“Across the company, we’ve reduced fossil fuel use by 14 percent, which has contributed to a 5.9 percent reduction in CO2 emissions over the past four years,” Levitsky said. “Reducing our footprint stretches across our supply chain and is part of our company value of stewardship.” 

As a long-time leader of the industry, Perdue places strong value on the concepts of quality, integrity, teamwork and stewardship. Levitsky proudly stands behind the company’s motto.

“We believe in responsible food and agriculture, and that cultural commitment drives innovation,” he said. “Stewardship is a value that supports our vision to become the most trusted name in food and agriculture.”