Linda Brady Traynham

Okay, laugh, but much information can be culled from contemplating chicken manure, even if nobody much consults chicken entrails any more.

This spring we wanted chicken manure spread on the pastures because it is incredibly rich in nutrients, the best “natural” fertilizer known to man, and quite inexpensive, comparatively speaking.  So I asked one of my truck driver friends, who cleans out houses for Sanderson Farms affiliates, to bring me several dump truck loads.  “No can do, because they aren’t having it done, this year,” quoth he.

How odd.  I mulled that over off and on for months, and today I got the answer.

The greenies are at it again!  THIS time they are claiming that litter (sawdust and, ah, processed chicken feed) is polluting the sacred environment, and I guess they’ll have to fight it out with those who insist we should eat lots more chicken and much less red meat.

AP online reports that Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has accused a dozen Arkansas processors of “polluting the Illinois River watershed with bird waste.”  A federal trial–Oh, grief, now we’re making a federal case out of chicken mess?

The federal trial begins September 21st.  If the Feds win, other “environmental” lawsuits may ensue in other states, threatening the multi-billion-dollar poultry industry.   At stake in this suit are 1,800 poultry houses which employ more than 55,000 people who produced over eight billion pounds of chickens and turkeys last year.  The average investment is over half a million dollars.  It may not be pertinent, but raising fowl is not a pleasant way to earn a living.

The AP report continues, “Edmondson says the sheer volume of the waste spread on the land – estimated at 345,000 tons per year – has wreaked environmental havoc.” (He’s talking about a million-acre area, by the way.)

“Runoff carries bacteria into lakes and streams, where it threatens the health of tens of thousands of people who boat and camp in the valley every year. He says the industry took the least expensive way out when it could have burned the litter as energy, processed it into pellets or even composted it until the pathogens died.” Oh, yeah, we can imagine the reaction of the carbon freaks to the burning proposal, I’m not sure what pellets would be good for, unless, again, he is talking about something that can be burned in stoves, but they would surely be expensive to produce, and the stuff is composted naturally in the chicken houses, as I discuss below.  Have you ever smelled burning manure?  Maybe it isn’t so bad when dried; pioneers used buffalo chips.  You would prefer not to know about the time the Old English Sheepdog had a tummy upset near a floor furnace…Odoriferous does not begin to describe the calamity.

AP states, further, “For decades, farmers took clumps of bird droppings, bedding and feathers from the houses and spread them on their land as an inexpensive fertilizer for other crops. The two states sanctioned this by issuing the farmers permits, and the industry says no individual companies or farms have been accused of violating environmental regulations.” (Emphasis mine.)  The “bedding” referred to is sawdust or wood shavings, not Posturepedic mattresses.  Not a lot of feathers are involved, but they’re pure protein.

We have spread chicken manure on our land when it was available since 1950.  Daddy got it from the local college, which gave the stuff away.  One of life’s more pleasurable pursuits is NOT shoveling fresh chicken mess out of a truck and spreading it by hand, but it produced thick, lush grass and lakes where fish thrive.  For over 50 years we have been “polluting” our pastures to the benefit of man, beast, and land with natural organic fertilizer.   Silly us, we thought we were practicing good animal husbandry, as taught to Daddy at Texas A&M, as well as economy.

The modern “product” is not literally fresh chicken manure.  The caged birds defecate onto sawdust or wood shavings–which add minerals and organic matter and “lighten” the soil, making it better for crops or grassland–and the fecal matter ages and dries out naturally over the course of about six months since the houses are usually cleaned out twice a year.  While some of it is “fresh” (you could come up with a wonderful equation involving percentages and age of the product) when the natural fertilizer is spread on the land, the preponderance of it has dried and mellowed, and the bacteria mentioned have died of exposure to the elements.  When it is spread sunlight kills whatever remain quickly.  What the farms were almost certainly selling, as well as using to improve their own land, is known as “cake,” and compared to the product fresh out of the bird it smells delightful.  My darling Charles points out punctiliously that lime should be added at the time, but I told him you had already learned more than you ever wanted to know about chicken mess.

In short, this lawsuit is sheer balderdash, as usual, another attack on the free market and our food chain.

This case bodes ill for the poultry industry, stocks in Sanderson and Simmons, and the consumers’ pocketbooks.  It is a beautiful try for more “legislation from the bench” from the Liberals, castigating a superb byproduct that is needed desperately by our mineral- and nutrient-depleted soils, harming small business men, and creating shortages where they need not be while costing all of us.

This, in turn, is likely to have an effect on Col. Sanders, which is owned by Pepsico.  Wake up, CEO, or Kentucky Fried Chicken could be out of business through lack of meat to steam cook or enormous price increases.  Are you listening, Church’s, Chick-fil-A, and Wings and More?

Chicken will be very rare on your tables if the poultry giants are shut down, particularly in light of the provisions in the Food “Safety” act which will make it a crime to kill our own for home use.  For thousands of years mankind has managed to slay chickens, remove their feathers and innards, and eat them quite safely, but we are held to be so incompetent to do so that Nanny has to take our hatchets away and threaten to jail us.  (That is the most savory explanation.  There are scarier ones.)

Small farmers cannot keep chicken in grocery store freezers year around, friends, even if we could make a profit after paying to have the birds processed “professionally.”  Will the EPA decide next that we have to diaper our birds?  What about wild birds?

Grocery stores cannot function with unreliable suppliers.

Perhaps we should consider founding a Reform Rastafarians  movement (I don’t know much about what Rastafarians do, other than that it involves killing chickens.) and have as a tenet of our faith that we must cook and consume the sacrifices as part of freedom of religion.  That could be just whacko enough to be approved by the “you may worship anything but Jesus” crowd.

If the EPA and the Greens aren’t reined in we’re going to have serious food shortages.  Thirty per cent. of the corn crop is being thrown away on ethanol.  We stripped out an ear grown from genetically-modified seeds recently, and not only did it not produce kernels that would propagate, it hadn’t made any at all!  There was nothing in there except the cob and the silk.  The result in the field was baled as fodder, and my friend’s hundred goats had great fun tearing apart the 900 pound roll and eating the two ears per stalk, after which they refused, sensibly, to have anything further to do with dried, tasteless cellulose.

The government proposes to tax me because the Black Dexters produce methane, and this year’s Thanksgiving turkey may be the last you ever see.  Guess I’d better give you my recipe for Linda’s Heart-Stopping Gravy.  I’ll post it here on Morning Whiskey.

Enjoy it while you can.

Linda Brady Traynham

August 4, 2009

Linda Brady Traynham
  • Richard


    This entire chicken fiasco is, quite obviously, for the birds. It also definitely endangers one of our most sacred warning systems…namely Chicken Little. The dramatic reduction in the chicken population means that we may no longer have Chicken Little to kick around any more. It also makes you wonder exactly which critter will be acceptable to the Greens and the Feds to run around screaming “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

    No, wait! There’s no need for any creature, animal or human, to cry “The sky is falling” anymore. If this lawsuit is successful, there will undoubtedly be a multitude of others that will line up to follow the same path. If that occurs, the sky will have already fallen.

    No more KFC? No Church’s? No Popeye’s? And McDonald’s chicken biscuit? Sniff! Whimper!

    Oh, I almost forgot…while I dry my tears over the coming loss of that epicurian delight, Southern Fried Chicken, that there is an even greater danger posed by this fowl act. Coal miners will no longer be able to be warned of a buildup of carbon monoxide. Why? Because their beloved Canary in the coal mine produces it’s own form of fowl manure that will surely be affected by that self same lawsuit.

    And with that I shall end this missive and track down a piece of fried chicken. While it lasts.


  • e rheault

    Alas and alac the next thing the reformers will be after is anything that goes Quack! But on second thought that might be a good thing it will thin out the bad doctor pool.

  • rancherlady

    ROFLMCute Posterior O! Guys, you’re wonderful. My birds are free range. At what point will the EPA and OSHA be out here demanding they be caged (which will enrage the PETA types) and that I must police up every little black and white blob every night? Can you believe that the Food “Safety” Act DOES go into how close compost piles can be to buildings and how frequently they must be moved? Can’t have us using anything that is absolutely free (indeed, inevitable) that is beneficial.

    Sometimes I feel guilty for how much fun I get from writing articles because I get even more enjoyment from answering the terrific Shooters who respond. Then I pull myself together remembering that I am not a joyless, censorious, bossy Statist, but a laissez faire Jeffersonian Agrarian republican…

    Live and let live. The chickens and I have an agreement: they may have all the bugs they can catch and nice mixed grain free from pesticides, insecticides, hormones, and antibiotics, and they may sit on and hatch eggs whenever they are so inclined. I take the rest of the eggs and thank them kindly for manufacturing first class guano and spreading it around naturally.

    Thanks again, you really added to an already wonderful day. Linda

  • rancherlady

    I will NEVER understand why sometimes my comments post immediately…and sometimes they don’t. Richard and e rheault, I just thanked you for adding a lot of fun to my day, and I’ll re-compose later if it doesn’t show up. Gary, honest, I didn’t use a word fowl-er than “guano.”

    Now for the lesson in Linda’s Heart-Stopping Gravy. I am quite serious when I say that no one I know on two continents and a very large island will make gravy if I am within fifty miles and can be induced to do it. It is an art, not a science, and you will learn by doing, just as I did by watching my mother.

    You need butter (real, of course), flour, some chicken boullion cubes, whipping cream, a pepper mill, and some chicken broth, preferably that you froze yourself when poaching chicken. You may use sea salt if you prefer.

    Scoop up about a cup of flour. Put a big, cast-iron skillet on the stove and drop a stick of butter in it. Turn the temperature to about medium and start stirring flour into the butter as it melts. You’ll probably need most of it, maybe a little more or a little less. The “roux” (pronounced “rue” and referring to a fat-flour mixture) should be neither runny nor so thick it forms into crumbs. If it is runny, add more flour, of course. If it is too thick, toss in some more butter (or, if you fry chicken and keep that oil for nothing else and refrigerate it, that’s terrific, too.) You’re making gravy, not conducting an experiment in chemistry.

    Cook and stir until the roux is lightly browned, and remove the pan from the stove.

    Pay close attention, here, because I’m going to tell you the secret to absolutely lump-free gravy every time: the roux and the liquid have to be the same temperature. It is of no consequence whether both are hot or both are cold. Scrunch or crush a couple of boullion cubes (or use the equivalent in crumbs) and stir into the roux. Then start working in about a cup and a half (a standard can) of broth OR if you have boiled the giblets use the broth off that. The mixture will start to thicken because that’s what the flour does.

    Put the pan back over the heat and stir until things are thickening nicely. Add at least a cup of whipping cream…ah, go ahead and dump in a bunch more!…and do not let the gravy boil after that point because the cream will curdle. Give the pepper mill a few grinds, do it again, and then call in some interested male to taste the result. If he says it needs more salt, taste it yourself. Taste varies widely and they can add extra salt at the table, but the only way to rescue your sauce if you over-salt it is to start over with more flour and butter.

    Adjust the consistency to suit your family. As instructed you’ll get good, thick, rich cream gravy, which is how we all like it. A spoon won’t stand up in it when it’s hot, at least. No, you may NOT substitute milk, half and half, or margarine, at least not if you intend to tell people this is how Linda does it.

    This is th’ real thang, folks, as made by South’n ladies ever since there has been gravy, I guess. That is also how you start if you want to make creamed something on something, or Alfredo Sauce, or you could even thin it with milk and make Cream of Whatever Soup.

    Of course that’s a recipe! Other than leavening almost nothing really needs measuring.

    Enjoy, Linda

  • Douglas C Trant


    I enjoy your articles.

    Douglas C Trant

  • rancherlady

    I want to go a bit more deeply into the economics of chicken production. The big commercial growers feed the fowl all sorts of distressing things, including hormones and antibiotics. The birds are kept in dim light, and it takes approximately six weeks to force the chickens to edible size.

    In contrast, “free range” chickens do, indeed, range far and wide in search of disgusting things that hop, wriggle, creep, and jump. They think they are fabulous munchies. Our original couple of dozen destroyed the yard so thoroughly I doubt we will ever resuscitate it, denuding the land of grass in search of succulent wiggly things.

    It takes more like six months for the chickens here to become pot-, pan-, and oven-worthy. In the meantime we figure fifty cents a bird a week to supplement with grain and we use only grain that has not been laced with pesticides, insecticides, hormones, and antibiotics. If we buy chicks they run $3.25 each; if we hatch them ourselves we’re out eggs we produced and electricity to run the incubator and turner for three weeks, so you can see that by the time one is big enough to bcome an epicurean delight we have a fair investment in him. Of course you are eating males; the females are used to lay eggs except when they get old and are sold as roasters or when we’re talking about the T-Day turkey again.

    The worst problem is that it costs $6.00–you read that right, SIX DOLLARS–to have the rooster slain, disemboweled, and denuded of his feathers “professionally,” and there are laws against doing it ourselves. My father refused to pay a quarter each in 1980 when we had fifty birds that had been grown for the County Fair. Five were shown and won the blue ribbon. It took three adults all afternoon to clean the chickens and prepare them for the freezer.

    Today, I will have a little over twenty dollars in a chicken, not counting labor and losses to predators, and you are all going to say, “Linda…why should we buy such a chicken when Tyson will sell us one for about five dollars and Kroger’s will vend one already roasted to perfection for six?”

    That’s the whole point: between mass marketing and governmental regulations, the game is rigged so thoroughly that no one can afford to raise chickens in bulk unless they are prepared to build that half-million dollar chicken house and contract with a big packing house. Nobody much wants a six dollar a pound chicken, since the grower really needs to make some sort of profit. That’s why you are forced to purchase an inferior product and why you really shouldn’t eat the livers which have been filtering out all of the chemicals. YOU have no choice because a small farmer can’t begin to compete or get his flock to market, all for the benefit of Tyson and so forth. All of those added chemicals are why little girls are beginning to develop before their ages are in double digits, instead of five years later as they did back in the dark ages when I was young. That is one reason why more and more antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria are developing.

    Not content with having given agribusiness that sort of advantage in every area, their friends in government have come up with the Food “Safety” Act which will make it illegal for us to consume or you to have in your possession delicious, nutritious naturally-grown products. Imagine anyone telling Martha Washington that she couldn’t use raw milk with thick, rich cream on it, or threatening Robert E. Lee if the slaves he had freed ate ate locally-grown chickens.

    Did you know that commercial chicken broth and dogfood are made from the feet and odds and ends? Ugh. NEVER throw out the broth you poached chicken in. It freezes beautifully, and you cannot buy broth of that quality.

    Chuckle…making your own broth adds new meaning to “stock” market, but now you know why “organic” meat and poultry cost so much more when you can find them.


  • rancherlady

    Hi, Douglas! Good to see you back. Good to be back myself. Now, if we could just figure out where the two answers I have written today disappeared to…Linda

  • Jack

    Is that gravy good to use on pate made from the liver of leftist lunatics?

    I’d be curious to see where the funding for these lawsuits are coming from. Perhaps a big fertilizer company? Using the usefull idiots to do there bidding?

    I say get the manure and spread it. Get all of the growers and farmers in the area to do the same. Make a BIG STINK if they come after you. The only (nonviolent) way to rid ourselves of this insanity is to confront it, face to face, and shout the lunatics down until they crawl back to their coffee shops to lick their “wounds”.

  • rancherlady

    Delighted laughter, Jack! What wonderful readers I have, bless you one and all.

    That is an excellent question…who, uh, egged the fellow in Oklahoma on? ARE the chemical fertilizer people involved? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to root around and see what we can infer. The lunatics are baying at the moon, but many things boil down to “follow the money trail.” Hmm…who benefits if the big poultry farmers are put out of business? Who benefits if the price of chicken and turkey go up because chicken manure has to be sent to Africa to be buried, like old TV sets, or put in drums like nuclear waste?

    The gravy, quite seriously, is good on absolutely everything except ice cream. I never make any other kind, because my family would be in full rebellion if served brown or red-eye gravy. Have you got a recipe for pate d’liberal?! Fortunately, I don’t know any personally. I have a feeling their livers are so tainted with the miracles of modern chemistry that they would be hazardous to our health.

    Y’all do remember that Gary is authorized to send my e-mail address to anyone who asks for it and does not appear to be a member of a maniacal cult? Hey, I’m easy to get along with. If any of the Statists want to debate with words or the weapons at their command…I’ll play. Tut! I had in mind sarcasm, lousy logic, and appeals to my social conscience. I haven’t got one. One on one I’m as kind a lady as ever breathed, but my heart does not bleed over starving Biafrans (feed them and you get more. Malthus was right.) or other human Tribbles who aren’t even sweet and cuddly.

    I mention the address because I am accumulating a small coterie of those who are sent all the articles Gary doesn’t have room for, some bean-counter having said that I can’t have my own page! In particular, I think it would be fun if we had a Whiskey Outpost Contingent here in Texas. Shucks, we could have barbecues, meet at Galveston and build sand castles while discussing when we think Citi will go under, and swap ideas on how to become more self-sufficient.

    Thanks again for your fun, pertinent response. Linda

  • Anita

    I would only add that there is nothing wrong with the feet. We raised chickens for years when I was a kid and butchered them ourselves. The feet, after being washed and processed, were used to make chicken stock by my Italian grandmother, who used it to make the Best Chicken Soup in the World. I still make it this way, though the feet are increasingly difficult to find and mine never seems to taste quite like hers did.

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  • Oldmanriver

    Hello Linda,

    Been on vacation and busy at work for a while so I have not commented in a while, but Im back in the saddle again so to speak. Im not familiar with the particulars on the company mentioned above nor on the lawsuit brought by the OK AG. Its odd that its being done by OK and not IL. I dont think this action is going to have any affect on chicken production in the USA. This company is not one of the majors ie, Tyson. What you probably dont know is that chicken manure is hot as far as Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous are concerned. One wet ton of chicken manure contains approx 69# of N, 82# of P and 38# of K. Substantial when you consider that you are only applying 180 # of N to get a 180-200 BPA yield of corn and thats if you are planting corn on corn. So if this amount of litter was spread over a million acres each acre gets 23.8 # N, 28# of P and 13.11 # of K. The problem probably isnt so much the N and K but the P as P is a major source of pollution in water ways. The litter was probably not spread over 1 million acres as having that amount of acreage available to do this would be difficult at best for one company. The company was probably not using best management practices for the spreading of manure. I wouldnt feel too bad for them as its companies like this that are killing off vast stretches of ocean life in the gulf, polluting water ways and streams and generally giving farmers a bad name. Its possible to do it right, you have to test your soil every 3 years and know how much you can put on. You have to calculate how much you can safely add. You have to use proper equipment and management practices to limit run-off. This is just being a good farmer. You have to store the manure properly. Its not waste its a valuable bi product of livestock production. Its companies like this that have put many independant farmers out of buisness. Im not shedding a tear for them. I have seen what a badly run outfit can do to the environment. That is encroaching on my rights as a citizen. They are stealing from me and everyone else.

    On processing chickens you can butcher them yourself as long as you are consuming them yourself. If you want to get around that sell live chickens and the person purchasing can butcher them or have them processed how ever they want. Its not hard to butcher chickens its just messy and stinks. No smell is worse than wet hot chicken feathers. you can clean a chicken in about 5 min if you are set up right. There are many small farmers that are doing this and some have even gone as far as to build their own small scale processing plants. Its not cheap or easy but now they are making more money than they thought possible, all the while producing a high quality, safe and value added product.

    The reason you add lime is to even out the ph of the manure as its highly acid. For growing corn we always targeted a ph of 6-6.5 for our ground in central Illinois. In the state of Illinois you have to be certified to apply manure if you have over a certain number of animal units. I think its 300 if memory serves me. This is a good program as it helps teach people the best management practices to use so that an operator gets the most benefit of the manure without harming the environment. In the end its a win win for everyone.

    Thanks for the interesting articles, keep them coming!

  • Oldmanriver

    Ok, I have to eat a little crow, I looked up the lawsuit in question and its not against a specific operator but the entire chicken industry. I should know better than to run off at the mouth before I know the facts. Its interesting to note that they always use the poor farmer excuse (the farmers will go out of business!) I get so tired of that. If people dont want them to go out of business stop eating the cheap chicken. Its the economies of scale, the drugs etc that make cheap chicken possible. There are all kinds of small operations that could survive if consumers would opt to buy the more expensive option. A small operation does not have the impact environmentally that a large outfit does. The AG is right in that the water is being polluted with nutrients. We are getting what we paid for. The answer is not to stop using manure as fertilizer but to think of it as a valuable bi-product. Apply it using best management practices. To be actual stewards of the land. There are very few independant poultry farmers left in america. They all are under contract with the majors to grow birds, basically indentured servants to banks and the processors. They usually dont even have any crop land of their own to apply the manure or at least enough land for the amount of birds they are raising. It wouldnt be a bad thing to force these large companies to stop polluting the environment. It is possible to do without sacrificing clean water and air. Yes its going to cost more but we are incurring costs that are unseen just so Tyson and company can make a healthy profit. While I dont trust the government with my well being I trust companies even less with it. There is always a better way to do something and for years many of these companies have been let off the hook in the name of capitalism. Well Im tired of it. As citizens of the USA, those waters belong to everyone, we should not tolarate pollution just so we can have cheap chicken, just force these companies to comply with water regs, its not that difficult.

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