Being a committed greenie, I rarely eat pork. Not because I don’t like it, but because of the disgusting way it is raised on huge hog farms. Shoot, cities build sewage treatment plants for human waste, but the hog farmer’s animal wastes pollute rivers and spoil (collectively) thousands of acres of land. Disastrous messes are cleaned up by you and me, babe, our taxes. How fair is that? Without a strong pork lobby, and our weak willed congress, government could and should require they build treatment plants.
Tatah!! The answer is at hand and it is wonderful.
Thankfully, farmer Loyd Bryant, fromYadkinville, North Carolina has come up with a solution. Mr. Bryant used to be the guy who pumped the poop, now Mr. Bryant is the guy who runs a power plant.
Mr. Bryant built a power plant with off the shelf parts on a 154 acre farm. The power plant, that is actually more like a waste processing plant, uses bacteria to digest the poop and then the plant burns the methane to make electricity. Additionally, Mr. Bryant’s plant converts the ammonia into forms of nitrogen that can be used as a fertilizer.
The project cost $1.2 million to build with financing secured from both Google and Duke University. Duke University claims that Mr. Bryant’s system is one of the cleanest in existence, and it solves all of the environmental problems associated with animal waste (namely, methane, ammonia, and disposal of said waste.)
In the three way partnership everyone wins. Mr. Bryant saves money on electricity and gets a cleaner farming environment. The 65-kilowatt turbine generates enough electricity to power the plant system and five of Bryant’s nine hog barns. Meanwhile, Google and Duke earn carbon offset credits.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the number of waste to energy systems in the U.S. grows every year – last year 162 systems on U.S. farms were in action using poop as a renewable source of energy. Such systems are also being touted as a way to dispose of human sewage in developing areas like Africa, providing power for an ever-growing population that lacks proper infrastructure.
The EPA estimates that if 8,200 eligible dairy and hog farms nationwide used systems like Mr. Bryant’s these farms could generate enough electricity to power 980,000 homes for one year. The EPA predicts that this would create the equivalent of removing 6.7 million cars from America’s roads by reducing methane emissions and avoiding power plant carbon dioxide emissions.
The picture accompanying the article shows this darling free ranging mother and baby. But, I still won’t be eating pork regularly, even though the news is good. Those hog farms do not have free range hogs. They are tightly cooped, grown and slaughtered in an ugly, despicable way. Raising meat in general is a reprehensible if efficient practice. I’m still struggling with the ethics of eating meat at all and I attempt to eat less and less of it, including avoiding beef. In a world of burgeoning population and a country of poor land use practices, someday, we will be forced to change. But, those times when I do cave in and eat pork, I can feel a smidge less guilty.