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The rise of the "megafarm": How British meat is made

Part 6 - Conflict in the countryside

The growth of intensive farms has caused conflict in the countryside. The Bureau asked the owner of Penhros Farm in Herefordshire, Richard Williams, and his neighbour Janet Srodzinski, to share their views.

Janet Srodzinski lives 235 metres from four chicken sheds near the village of Kington, Herefordshire:

The first lot of chickens came August 2015. It’s made my life very difficult. My life is my garden and my dogs. I’ve got quite a big garden and I used to love sitting in it. Now if the wind is in the wrong direction for me, I can’t go outside because of the smell. It’s a horrible sweet sickly smell. It’s a mix of bedding, chicken droppings, goodness only knows what. Its weekends as well. I remember Christmas Day, 2015 - I went out on to my terrace and I was almost sick. The smell was dreadful all day, Christmas day. Last summer was a bit better because we had north-westerly winds. I pray for north winds now.

Then there’s the lorries. They grind up the hill. It’s so congested. They didn’t consider the impacts on the local infrastructure at all. The lorries come at night. Once it was 4 o'clock one morning and it lit the bedroom up and woke me up. I’ve moved bedrooms now, I don’t sleep there anymore because I’ll be woken up by the lorries. Its 26 lorries going in and out, 56 movements. Coming every 35 days.

It’s a lovely county and these sheds have ruined it. My next door neighbour did a charity cycle run and everywhere they went there was a smell of chickens. For a tourist area, it’s just not very nice. In my opinion if we’ve got to have chicken sheds it’s got to be as far away from humans as possible.

Richard Williams owns the broiler sheds, growing about 1.3 million birds a year for major poultry company Cargill:

Ι’ve lived in the area all my life. My father bought a 60 acre farm in 1960. I just want everyone to get along. I think there’s a difference between what people who come to the countryside to retire feel about the land and people who are making a living on it. We can have huge areas completely protected and have them as monuments. But is that going to feed the nation?

I worked with the planning officer and decided this was the best place for the site. The chickens are quiet. We’re here on a hot day with the wind blowing in our face and there’s no odour. I’ve planted orchards in the hill in front of it – and trees directly in front of it. I also painted the sheds, the feed bins and the plumes juniper green to make them blend in - even though that was more expensive.

Mrs Srodinzki complains about the lorries but the A44 is a busy trunk road. There’s a quarry nearby and a sewage farm. The feed trucks for this farm – its 12 trailer loads every 47 days. It wasn’t in planning rules but I asked for a one way system to help traffic and I asked for the feed trucks to come in the day. Catching the birds [to take them to slaughter] - yes the trucks come at night and it can be all night - but that’s because its calmer for the birds. It’s for animal welfare.

Poultry is one of the biggest success stories of farming – it isn’t subsidised. It stands on its own two feet. Cargill is a major employer in the area. We employ three people and 40 different companies during each crop. Remember, I’m doing this to provide for my children. I’m not wealthy by any stretch and I’ve got a lot of borrowed money. This gives us an opportunity to make profit. Everything we do is driven by the consumer. We’re making safe, quality protein grown in the UK.

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