Litter Means Scratch

Posted: Apr 23, 2011 10:56 AM

As Earth Day gets closer we are going to hear more and more about what corporate America is doing to be more environmentally friendly.  CEOs, and Directors can commiserate with Kermit the Frog this time of year as they realize it isn’t easy being green, it actually costs a lot of money.

Public companies often struggle with balancing being environmentally friendly while still trying to make a profit. Doing the right thing for shareholders and for the environmentalists  oftentimes is at odds with one another. But there is hope for leaders who want to do both.  Some companies, like Perdue Anheuser-Busch, and General Electric are well on their way to simultaneously being “green” and eliminating expenses or even creating value.

Perdue, one of Americas oldest and most well recognized family owned businesses, knows how to make money from chickens. Amazingly, they have also found a way to deal with the tons of chicken, $%#!, um er (we will call it “litter”) created by their birds.

This month, as other corporations look to satisfy shareholders and activists alike, Perdue AgriBusiness is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its AgriRecyle plant, the nation’s first and largest commercial facility designed to turn poultry litter into pasteurized organic fertilizer. This fertilizer, certified by both USDA’s National Organic Program and the Organic Materials Review Institute, is sold through retailers for residential and commercial use nationwide.

It is certainly an innovative solution that is working to eliminate the costs of disposing of the chicken litter.

Over the last decade, this Seaford, Delaware facility has worked with the local Delmarva farming community to remove more than 1.5 billion pounds of litter taken in and it has produced about 850 million pounds of finished organic fertilizer of which 50% is relocated out of the watershed. This means a cleaner Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Perdue says its investment wasn’t designed to be hugely profitable, and to this day the facility has been at best a break-even operation, but they are in this for the long haul because it is indeed the right thing to do.

Perdue’s AgriRecycle can process the equivalent of 400 poultry houses worth of litter each year. The company also participates in litter relocation programs, further reducing excess nutrients on the Delmarva Peninsula.

It started operation in 2001, making Perdue Incorporated the first poultry company to implement a large scale, environmentally sound alternative use for litter. While Perdue hasn’t found the way to turn chicken litter into chicken salad, they have found a way to be responsible while not sacrificing a lot of scratch either.

These aren’t the only green endeavors Perdue has found to save money.

  • The company about to break ground on construction of 11,000 solar panels which will cover 10 football fields of its corporate headquarters and other Perdue properties. When complete this summer, the solar panels will provide about 25 percent of the electricity that Perdue requires for those operations on an annual basis. At peak solar energy production times, the system can provide up to 90% of the peak demands of those operation.
  • Perdue is in the middle of a $12.8 million green renovation of its corporate headquarters. Once complete, we are anticipating this building will be LEED gold certified meaning it will include a wide variety of environmentally sustainable practices including state-of-the-art high efficiency, resource responsible heating and air conditioning units, materials that are locally sourced and contain a high % of recycled materials, providing premium parking spaces for employees driving hybrid cars, and other benefits.

Another company seeing revenues increase and costs going down as a result of going green is Anheuser-Busch, InBev. The company recently announced that the company plans to eliminate its worldwide water use by thirty percent by the end of next year. Couple that with the metal saved by trimming an eighth of an inch off the diameter of its beer cans (while maintaining the same amount of product inside) they are significantly reducing costs.

The Anheuser-Busch website even brags about their history of being green.  They proudly state that in the late 1800s, they began recycling leftover grain from the brewing process, using it for cattle feed, a practice that continues today.

While corporate America looks for way to prioritize being green, they should take another look at companies that make green profitable like Perdue.  Being green shouldn't mean losing money.