The Sustainable Chicken Project: turning trash into eggs

If you’ve ever eaten eggs that comes straight from the farm (especially one that allows its chickens to range somewhat freely), you know that nothing from the grocery store comes close in terms of flavor. Master Composter Tom Shelley and farmer Christianne White, of Ithaca, New York, are trying out a new model for getting local residents hooked on such eggs while lightening their environment footprints: exchanging compostable “trash” for a regular supply of such eggs.

Dubbed “The Sustainable Chicken Project,” the exchange works a bit like a CSA. According to a message Shelley sent out to the members of the Finger Lakes Permaculture mailing list,

We’d like to collect your food scraps, compost them at our farm, and allow our 95 laying hens (and a few roosters) to forage on the insects and other decomposing organisms living in the active compost. The compost critters will become a significant component of the protein requirement of our flock, reducing our reliance on traditional grains as a protein source. Instead of going to the landfill, as is currently the case, the composted food scraps from urban residents would become part of our chicken’s nutrient base and the urban participants would have access to high quality, sustainable and locally raised eggs, establishing an urban-rural nutrient cycle. We hope this will become a demonstration project to illustrate one way in which local agriculture can become less dependent upon fossil fuels, reduce its greenhouse gas output and become more sustainable overall.

Participants in the project pay $35/year, and receive up to ten dozen eggs during the ten-week season. Shelley told the Ithaca Journal that he’s currently “just about breaking even” on feed costs, but sees the project as a means to promote financially sustainable egg production for small farmers, and reduce the amount of materials from urban settings that goes to landfills.

Of course, you could just buy your eggs directly from a farmer… but this seems like a great idea for demonstrating a closed-loop method of waste disposal.

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