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Feathers Weigh Heavy on Some Folks in Turkey Country

Posted January 4, 2008
Updated January 7, 2008

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— Poultry trucks are really ruffling the feathers of some folks in Sampson County. They're fed up with feathers – turkey feathers.

About half of the 40 million turkeys raised each year in North Carolina come from Sampson and Duplin counties. Not everything on the birds makes it from farm to factory.

"It's very bad. It's very discouraging," said Gloria Faircloth, who lives along N.C. Highway 24 outside Roseboro, in Sampson County.

"On a daily basis, you can pick up from a 5-gallon bucket to a trash bag full of feathers,” Faircloth said of what she finds in her front yard.

One feather, all by itself, is actually pretty. It’s as white as a wedding gown and so delicate. You could tickle a baby's chin with it. When feathers land en masse, however, it’s a different story.

N.C. 24 cuts through the heart of turkey and chicken country. Trucks heading to processing plants deposit a flurry of feathers onto windshields and onto lawns.

"On a day it's not rained, it looks like it has snowed," Faircloth said.

In Autryville, one smart aleck put up a sign: "Free turkey feathers. U pick."

The question flying in everyone's face is what to do about the feathers. Poultry companies have considered options, such as placing mesh on trailers, but they say they're concerned it would hinder proper ventilation.

Prestage Farms Inc., of Clinton, has been experimenting with wire mesh for more than a year. Scott Prestage, vice president of the company's Turkey Division, said that half the fleet’s trucks have mesh, and he eventually hopes to have all trailers wrapped. he began addressing the issues 18 months ago, he said.

It’s inevitable, though, that some feathers will fly out, he said. Mesh “would trap a significant number of feathers,” he said, but he added that “this is an ongoing experiment.”

Prestage said the key is to cover the trailer without harming the turkeys. Since the mesh was installed, workers have been checking how many birds die in transit. So far, he said, the mesh has had a minimal affect on the turkeys.

He said mesh could cause heat stress and suffocation during the summer months.

Prestage said the company gets three or four complaints a year about feathers. He said he still needs to do more experimenting with meshes and would like to share what he learns with competitors in the area.

N.C. 24 links poultry farms to a number of processing plants in the area, including Prestage, House of Raeford and Mountaire.

Gloria Faircloth said the problem has gotten worse in recent years as the number of poultry farms has increased.


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  • RowdyFriend Jan 5, 2008

    The "smart alleck" that Brian Mims refers to in Autryville is actually a fine upstanding person who wants to have a clean yard like most decent folks do. I'd be interested to know why Brian Mims found it necessary to characterize someone this way; perhaps he's less than satisfied with his bureau reporter assignment and longs for a day when he doesn't have to deal with such mundane tasks. Hey, I'm sure Axelrod handled a chicken truck accident or a hog lagoon spill a time or two.

  • Hammerhead Jan 5, 2008

    click, I think it's some type of Mediterranean cheese.

  • clickclackity2 Jan 5, 2008

    When fetahjers land en masse, however, it’s a different story.

    Huh, is 'fetahjers' supposed to be latin?


    us citizen :

    Thanks for the compliment, It gives me the warm fuzzies when I receive approval from folks like you.

    I can only envy the fact that you must lead a very simple life.

    Wish I could Too !

  • Hammerhead Jan 5, 2008

    I'd rake them up and throw them in the compost pile along with the leaves that every one else seems to throw away.
    Now, the trash from the bus depot down the street is a different story.

  • Love my boys Jan 5, 2008

    Besides, the feathers are biodegradable - eventually, the ground will recycle them.

  • Love my boys Jan 5, 2008

    Yall remember just a couple weeks ago, what was on your table? A TURKEY! Sure weren't griping and b*tch*in about the feathers then, were ya? Making the trucks drive 15MPH is a joke all by itself - the turkeys and chickens would never get to the processing plant and you wouldn't get to where you're going - can you say MAJOR traffic jam?

  • Hammerhead Jan 5, 2008

    feathers make pretty good fertilizer, it's called feather meal.

  • Reb3Flag Jan 5, 2008

    Sounds like a business opportunity. Turkey feather pillows and comforters. Over charge for them, and they will sell like hot cakes.

  • lawpirate is still around Jan 5, 2008

    All the turkey eaters could unite an do an adopt a highway clean up of the feathers. Maybe they could even get coupons for free turkey for every bag of feathers they pick up!