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Alaska's Last Poultry Business Folds

by 5m Editor
23 August 2011, at 8:50am

ALASKA, US - Blaming excessive regulation, Triple D, the last commercial poultry farm in the state, has closed.

Alaska once had as many as 81,000 chickens on farms, according to Alaska Dispatch. Now, Triple D was the last commercial poultry farm in the state. It might be best known for its turkeys but it only sold about 400 of those a year, dwarfing its chicken business. The farm sold about 10,000 dressed chickens a year. Save for some leftover product in the freezer, all those chickens are gone. All the equipment is for sale.

Anthony Schmidt, the owner of Triple D Farm and Hatchery, said that he simply could not make ends meet. His poultry prices are too high, he said, for what people are willing to pay. It is a bad economy, he said. In 2008, before the crash, he had bought more birds than he could sell and has been making up for it ever since, even though his turkeys and chickens are widely hailed for their taste.

Alex Davis with A.D. Farms in Palmer is considering picking up where Mr Schmidt is leaving off. Mr Davis's business is vertically integrated, a necessity for small farmers, he said. He already has a thriving vegetable farm, sells eggs, and is always selling more and more locally grown pork – often at twice the cost of the grocery story. His customers, though, are willing to pay.

They find Mr Davis on his farm, or visit him twice a week in the parking lot of the Sears Mall in Midtown Anchorage. Unlike many farmers, Mr Davis knows how to market his products. He has a web site, which is continually updated, he collects emails and sends out weekly market reports.

He explained: "That one thing that rings most true about my business. I can never compete with a grocery store on price. But they can never compete with me on quality."

Presumably that would hold true for poultry, reports Alaska Dispatch. But chickens are harder animals to raise for harvest in Alaska. This time – unlike so many of Alaska's economic impediments – weather is not entirely to blame. Neither is the small market. In the Lower 48, small family farms, chicken operations included, are growing rapidly. Locally-grown food is all the rage.

The problem seems more a maze of regulations, coupled with a risk-adverse insurance industry in Alaska, making small poultry farming in Alaska nearly prohibitive.

The Alaska Dispatch report adds that, during the 1960s and 1970s, Alaska was home to between 30,000 and 40,000 chickens, according to statistics kept by the USDA. Then oil arrived, and the state invested millions of dollars in developing an agriculture business in Alaska. By 1982, Alaska was home to about 81,000 chickens, 57,000 of which were classified as 'layers'.