A solution to poultry waste problem

October 14, 2022

Disposing of poultry waste is a problem Sussex County farmers and poultry processing companies have battled for decades.

There is no doubt that the farming and poultry industries are intertwined. Sussex County is the largest poultry producer in the U.S. in an industry that generates $1.7 billion and provides more nearly 29,000 jobs in Delaware. Eighty cents of every dollar earned by local farmers is related to the poultry industry. The wholesale value of chicken produced on Delmarva in 2021 was a record $4.2 billion.

Current options for disposal are not optimum for the environment. Some chicken litter, bedding and manure from cleaned-out chicken houses, is used by farmers as fertilizer.

Poultry plant waste is treated and spray irrigated on land or shipped out of state for landfill disposal.

Bioenergy Devco has proposed a solution. Company officials want to recycle chicken litter and poultry processing waste at their plant near Seaford and produce natural gas and enhanced soil for compost using an anaerobic digester system.

The company, which currently coverts poultry waste into compost, has cleared most hurdles and is now awaiting a decision on a series of required Department of Natural Resources and Environment Control permits. A virtual public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26. Go to

The technology, while not widely used in the United States, is proven technology in other parts of the world, and especially in the European Union. There are nearly 20,000 digesters in 18 countries in the EU but just 2,200 digester sites in the U.S., including more than 250 on farms and nearly 1,300 resource recovery facilities.

Several groups have mounted an aggressive campaign against the plant claiming the operation is detrimental to the surrounding area's environment and people.

However, these groups do not have a reasonable alternative to deal with the problem of poultry waste. Cutting back production and limiting poultry growing is not a realistic solution. It would lead to an economic crash on Delmarva.

Anaerobic digestion is a natural process that uses bacteria (in this case microbes from cow manure) to break down organic waste, including food and food processing waste, into energy and soil amendments.

It's an established fact that this process significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which are one of the greatest environmental threats we face.

This proposed plant as a historical step to not only deal with the poultry waste problem, but also as a positive step to protect the environment.



  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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