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CONTEXT: Poultry farmers respond to national and global demand for low cost, packaged chicken. Raising poultry for market results in ammonia and poultry litter (manure and dust). However, for the Delmarva part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Airsheds, ammonia and poultry litter mean nitrogen pollution, which effects water quality and human health. Therefore, this inquiry looks closely at the values and benefits that shape poultry farmer decisions about managing ammonia from their poultry houses using two technologies: Vegetated Emissions Buffers (VEBs) and Poultry Litter Treatments (PLTs).

QUESTION: How can we better understand the values and benefits embodied in ammonia management choices by poultry farmers?

METHODS: This dissertation uses three methods to engage with poultry farmers (2012-19) to better understand a range of values—economic and non-economic—about voluntary ammonia management strategies. 1. Stasis theory (Chapter Two), 2. Scaling of conceptual diagrams to three inch by four-inch cards, for designing visual Q-cards (Chapter Three), 3. Q-sorting of cards and findings (Chapter Four).

FINDINGS: The Q-sorting events in this November 2019 study (25 value/benefits statements, sorted with 13 poultry producers) did not meet respondent number thresholds for formal Q-method factor analysis. However, results were studied using exploratory data analysis and chi-square testing of Q-sorting data. One important finding is that these eight cards appeared as important in two analysis categories: first, six cards likely MOST IMPORTANT (Photo 1); and second, the next two cards (Photo 2) as perhaps SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT. These pictured two sets of cards are ranked overall as having greater importance to poultry farmers, compared to aggregate card rankings of the other 17 cards in the 25-member card set.
Photo 1: In the aggregate, these six cards were sorted most often into the MOST IMPORTANT category.

Photo 2: In the aggregate, these two cards were sorted most often into the IMPORTANT category.

The six cards in Photo 1 (MOST IMPORTANT) can be understood in several ways. First, these three cards (position noted in bold) represent economic benefits to poultry farmers, important for farm fiscal stability. The three cards on the left all represent health gains for chickens, meaning a better payout when healthy, unblemished, full-weight birds are sold to the poultry company:• Top-left card: This card symbolizes healthy chickens as “happy”—a visual shorthand for healthy—commanding more per pound at payout. • Middle-left card: This card shows reduced in-house ammonia, which means that chicken flesh is less likely to be burned or marred by ammonia, commanding more per pound at payout; generally, lowered in-house ammonia also means healthier birds, which is a specific value noted in just above in the top-left card description. • Bottom-left card: This card shows unblemished chicken “paws” which can command an extra premium for Asian specialty food markets. This portion of the bird represents a newer market for poultry producers.

Within this group, two of these cards in Photo 1 (top- and middle-left) also show the value to farmers of using an enhanced schedule of PLTs to reduce ammonia inside the poultry house.

The right-hand cards in Photo 1 can be understood thusly as relying on VEB use:• Top-right card: This card shows energy savings from using VEBs to shade poultry houses and provide winter wind cover, thereby reducing energy costs annually, supporting farm fiscal status. • Middle-right card: This card symbolizes reduced ammonia odor by VEB capture, which can help avoid neighbor and nuisance complaints. • Bottom-right card: This card shows the value of VEBs as helping the farmer meet existing nutrient management planning, a state-administered requirement for many poultry farmers. nitrogen and phosphorus are two nutrients associated with poultry production, poultry litter storage/composting, and poultry litter application as field fertilizer.

These three VEB-focused cards in Photo 1 share the common context of concerning ammonia management strategies outside the poultry house, relying on the pollution remediation strategies of VEBs, a type of designed hedgerow plant structure._____ The two cards in Photo 2, noted as IMPORTANT but not as MOST IMPORTANT as the six cards in Photo 1 just described, relate to farmer concerns about human health. • Top card: This card show that poultry farmers can use VEBs outside poultry houses to capture ammonia and particle pollution, thereby improving local air quality, especially for farm families who live close to their poultry houses. • Bottom card: This card show that poultry farmers can use enhanced PLTs to reduce in-house ammonia, thereby improving worker conditions inside the poultry house.

CONCLUSION: This case study demonstrates the value of Q-sorting used with Delmarva poultry farmers and attitudes about ammonia management. These findings can be also understood as ground-truthing evidence, in that the visual card-sorting data confirm as important the eight cards discussed above. These values/benefits depicted on these cards fit the poultry context of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Additional Q-sorting activities with these cards or revised card sets to meet research needs are worthy undertakings.

This dissertation case study also shows the value of humanities within environmental policy deliberation. Stasis theory, from rhetorical studies, helped organize the complexity of this project, as well as made a clear role for valuing activities (including Q-sorting). A second field of humanities inquiry is science visualization studies. This field, closely allied with rhetoric, helped with design values to build clear and environmentally-situated picture cards for Q-sorting the ranked importance of these cards to poultry farmers.

Finally, the last chapter reflects on ways that a human dimensions approach supports a re-imagined Delmarva poultry production. One central design criterion about poultry production futures centers the role of poultry farmers, especially young farmers, in planning for resiliency. Among the pressures on poultry production is the well-documented wetter and warmer Delmarva, to climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic due to the 2019 emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, also posed risks to Delmarva poultry resiliency. Scenario analysis and design options are better with humanist and social science knowledge, combined with environmental science.