Turning Chicken Poop Into Power

In a dimly lit chicken house, John Logan stands surrounded by thousands of fluffy, yellow, week-old chicks. They're among 275,000 chickens he raises on his farm in Prentiss, Miss. Every 38 days, he ships off a batch to the chicken processor Tyson Foods.

Every year in the United States, 9 billion chickens are raised and sold for food. Their poop has become a problem for the environment.

Several years ago, Logan noticed the phosphorus content in his groundwater had become too high, because of chicken fecal contamination.

"I said, 'I got to do something,' " the farmer recalls. "I can't be putting this on the ground. Now, I have a river right here. What's to happen when that phosphorus overload washes into the river, which then ends up in the Gulf of Mexico?"

Logan considers himself a conservationist. So he turned to the idea of a manure digester, which is something cattle ranchers have been using to turn cow manure into energy. In the past, chicken manure had been mixed with other manure types and then converted into energy, but it had never been used on its own.

Logan worked with researchers and scientists at Mississippi State University to develop and patent the first successful chicken poop digester.

Now, every day, 4 tons of chicken manure are fed into the digester, which resembles a silo. The poop is heated, then mixed with bacteria, which produces the methane gas that is then converted into energy.

A chicken digester on John Logan's farm heats chicken manure and mixes it with bacteria, producing methane gas that is converted into energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been promoting the use of manure digesters since 1993. But a complicated patchwork of local, state and federal energy policy rules has discouraged people from using them, according to Chris Voell, an EPA program manager. He says with some changes, "instead of 130 digesters around the country, there could be thousands of digesters."

Congress is also considering a fix to the Federal Clean Water Act, which would affect the way poultry operations deal with chicken manure. Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry trade group, says new rules would improve the way chickens are produced.

"The more options that chicken growers have in handling the manure in a proper and environmental manner, the better off they are, and the better off the industry is," he says.

As for Logan, he isn't just raising chickens anymore. He sells digesters through his company Eagle Green Energy. They cost $500,000 each, but Logan says they're worth it because the savings add up.

The month before he started using the digester, he says, his power bill was about $8,000. The next month, it dropped to about $200. And "the next month, I got a small check from the power company," he says.

Logan's operation has even gone global. In addition to four digesters operating in Mississippi, and two others in the works for customers in Maryland and Delaware, Logan is working with companies in Italy, Australia and India.

Logan enlightens 20th Century Club on community conservation

The GFWC-MFWC Twentieth Century Club met March 18, 2014 at the Prentiss United Methodist Church fellowship hall for its monthly meeting. President Deborah Dickens called the meeting to order and welcomed all members and guests before leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Amy Berry followed giving a devotion about trust. Her scripture was Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” Then she read a passage from the devotion book, Jesus Calling, “Trust God one day at a time. God is the only true refuge. He is the source of our salvation, our rock, the basis of our expectation, our glory, the source of power and the fountain of mercy. Even though our daily lives can be full and complicated always remember to trust God and that he is always by our side.” Amy concluded with a heart touching prayer.

Patti Estes introduced John Logan as the guest speaker for the evening. He is currently and has been the president and manager of Brinson Farms L.L.C. located here in Jefferson Davis County for the past twenty years. The operation consists of a 980-acre poultry, beef, hay, and timber farm. Mr. Logan is also Chairman and CEO for Eagle Green Energy, Inc., a renewable energy development and marketing company. Eagle Green Energy constructs waste food and animal waste anaerobic digesters throughout the U.S. It holds a patent on a high temperature methane digester for broiler poultry waste, which produces pipeline quality methane gas and organic fertilizers. Eagle Green Energy has been featured in a number of publications, radio, and TV programs.

Mr. Logan received his BS degree in Industrial Management and Computer Science from Mississippi State University, a MS in Industrial Education and MBA from University Southern Mississippi.

He is a retired army colonel with 38 years service experience with the US Army Reserve and the Mississippi Army National Guard.

John has eight years teaching computer science at three Mississippi colleges. He retired from the computer industry with 30 years of computer related education, marketing and information management.

During his presentation about Eagle Green Energy he gave a case study about Brinson Farms saying every acre must be in production to make money.

With Mr. Logan’s presentation concluded the club began its social time. Since the assigned hostesses Grace Grubs and Katrina Magee were obligated with prior engagements, Marie McNease, Becky Williamson, and Tina McPhail served in their absence. They decorated the tables in the fellowship hall with white tablecloths accented with gray and white chevron toppers. The flowers for the evening were hydrangeas. Each table was embellished with a silver mercury glass vase holding a small floral arrangement of white hydrangeas while the center table was bedecked with an impressive glass vase topped off with even larger white hydrangeas. The food for the evening consisted of a tasty chicken salad on a bed of lettuce with crackers, fresh Louisiana strawberries, and miniature brownies. Water and tea were served as beverages.

Tina McPhail read the February minutes and gave the Treasury report. Patti Estes read a thank you note from the Ellisville State School. President Deborah Dickens announced a Ladies Brunch at Prentiss Baptist Church is set for Saturday, March 29, 2014, at 10:00 am. She also reminded the members the Run for the Roses is Saturday, April 12, 2014 and asked for volunteers to help. In closing she asked all members to be sure to wear purple next club meeting in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness.

Marie McNease won the door prize given by Pam Miller.

After reciting the Collect the meeting was adjourned.

4 poultry farms among nation’s best

Growers recognized for outstanding environmental stewardship and innovative application of technology on their poultry farms.

Efficient use of resources is good for business and good for the environment. The broiler, turkey and breeder growers recognized as Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award winners by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association have each shown that protecting the environment and successful farming go hand in hand. Manure management is a key part of any poultry grower’s environmental efforts, and this year’s award winning farms employ a number of innovative practices – including use of an anaerobic digester – to put poultry litter to good use while keeping nutrients out of waterways.

Brinson Farms: Energy and fertilizer 

Spending over $100,000 per year for the propane and electricity needed to operate his 10 broiler houses got John Logan thinking that there had to be a better way to provide the energy needed to run his Prentiss, Miss., farm. While Brinson Farms had been in his wife Bettye’s family for generations, Logan hadn’t always been a farmer, and his past experiences teaching, working with computers, and serving in the National Guard all played a role in the solution he found to power his farm.

Logan researched a number of alternative energy sources, but using an anaerobic digester to produce methane from his farm’s broiler litter is the option that intrigued him. Anaerobic digesters have been used on swine and dairy farms for years to produce methane gas which can be burned to produce heat or used in an internal combustion engine to drive an electric generator.

Poultry litter has been used as a fuel in gasifiers, but was not believed to be a suitable substrate for use in an anaerobic digester. In a pyrolytic gasifier, poultry litter is raised to a high temperature, around 1,500 F, in a low-oxygen environment, and this volatilizes many of the components of the litter. Air is then mixed with the volatilized gas and burned. Pyrolysis of poultry litter concentrates the nonvolatile components of the litter in the ash, but the nitrogen is burned off in the gas. Anaerobic digestion of poultry litter offered the prospect of producing energy while concentrating the fertilizer nutrients in the residual byproducts and preserving the nitrogen.

With the help of some researchers and government grants, Logan has developed an anaerobic digester on his farm that generates enough methane to heat his broiler houses and to generate all of the electricity that his farm needs (see Brinson Farms: Quest becomes another career). This unique system utilizes the chemical energy in the poultry litter while concentrating the fertilizer nutrients of the litter. Logan has developed markets for the liquid and solid byproducts of his anaerobic digester, and in this way the nutrients are sold off the farm for more money than the raw litter would return.
Brinson Farms raises 260,000 broilers per flock for Tyson Foods and was chosen as the winner in the Southeast region.

Evans Poultry: Protecting the Chesapeake Bay 

The Chesapeake Bay watershed has served as a highly publicized test case for cooperative attempts by states, municipalities, the federal government, companies and individuals working together to try and reduce the nutrient loading of a large complex aquatic ecosystem. Unfortunately, progress has not been made at the rate that regulators would like to see. Proper on-farm nutrient management is one element in the effort to reduce nutrient loading of the watershed. Moving poultry litter out of the watershed into an area with less nutrient loading has been proposed as a tool for helping to clean up the bay.

Evans Poultry in Dorcas, W.Va., is a long way from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay but is in the Chesapeake watershed. Allen and Beverly Evans raise around 140,000 broilers per flock in five houses for Pilgrim’s Pride. The farm has 800 acres, 300 of which are kept in pasture for a 100-head feeder-calf operation.

Nearly 1,000 tons of broiler litter are produced on the farm each year. Litter is stored in two 42-foot by 60-foot litter storage sheds. Around 80% of the litter is sold off the farm to farmers outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Pastures on the Evans’ farm only receive litter once every three years.

Because of the steep grade on the property, sediment traps and grass buffers are used to trap solids in any stormwater runoff from around the poultry houses.

Evans Poultry was selected as the winner in the Northeast region.

Backes Farm: Growing on small acreage 

In 2001, Glenn and Tracy Backes purchased a 50-acre farm in Eldon, Mo., with three turkey pullet houses on it. The family raises replacement breeders, 9,000 hens and 800 toms per flock, for Cargill in dark-out houses.

Because the Backes family raises turkey breeders, the houses are completely cleaned out after each flock. Since the houses are rebedded each flock, around 700 tons of litter are produced in a year. The farm’s acreage cannot accommodate this much litter, so 90% of the litter is sold to neighboring farmers.

In addition to raising replacement breeders, the family bottle feeds calves and has a small apple orchard and vegetable gardens.

Backes Farm was named the winner in the South Central region.

Hibbard Farms: Improving the land 

When Clay and Melissa Hibbard purchased 320 acres of cropland in Adair, Okla., in 1993 they started right away working to improve the neglected soil, and they haven’t stopped working on it. Hibbard Farms now encompasses 340 acres and has two poultry houses with 30,000 broiler breeders per flock raised under contract with Tyson Foods. The family also raises cattle.

The Hibbards have installed over 3.5 miles of cross fencing so that the pastures can be managed with rotational grazing. All of the creeks have been fenced to keep cattle out, and ponds have been built to provide water for the cattle. Because of the low phosphorous levels of the native soil, all of the farm’s litter can be used to improve the soil on the farm. Buffer strips 100 feet wide are maintained around creeks and litter is not spread in them.

Twenty acres of the farm are maintained in native prairie grasses to provide habitat for wildlife.

Hibbard Farms was named the winner in the Southwest region.


U.S. Poultry & Egg Association recognized five poultry farms for the annual Family Farm Environmental Excellence Awards during the 2010 International Poultry Expo. The award is given in recognition of exemplary environmental stewardship by family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production.

MPA Member John Logan of Brinson Farms in Prentiss, MS, won the award for the Southeastern Region. Brinson Farm’s was able to edge out the competition in our region with their innovations for litter management practices in place on the farm. They built an anaerobic digester that digests the mortality and litter from the farm. They collect the methane gas from the digestion process and use the gas to run a specially-built generator to supply the electrical needs of the farm. The excess electrical power produced using this process is sold back to the power company. By handling their litter in this manner, they virtually ensure no run off of phosphorus to U.S. waters, making them an environmentally sound operation.

Applicants were rated in several categories, including dry litter or liquid manure management, nutrient management planning, community involvement, wildlife enhancement techniques, innovative nutrient management strategies, and participation in education or outreach programs. Applications are reviewed and farm visits are conducted by a team of environmental professionals from universities, regulatory agencies, and state trade associations in selecting national winners. Winners were chosen from five geographical regions throughout the U.S.:

SOUTHEAST REGION: Brinson Farms, Prentiss, Mississippi John Logan, Bettye Brinson Logan and Virginia Mikell Brinson, nominated by Tyson Foods and Mississippi Poultry Association

SOUTH CENTRAL REGION: Backes Farms, Eldon, Missouri Glenn & Tracy Backes, nominated by Cargill Turkey Products

SOUTHWEST REGION: Hibbard Farms, Adair, Oklahoma Clay & Melissa Hibbard, nominated by Tyson Foods

NORTH CENTRAL REGION: New Day Farms, Raymond, Ohio Steve Bliesner, nominated by Ohio Poultry Association

NORTHEAST REGION: Evans Poultry, Dorcas, West Virginia Allen & Beverly Evans, nominated by Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation

Original Article

Move Over, Propane — A New Fuel Rules the Roost

Using his technical background in the military, Mississippi broiler producer John Logan developed a methane digester that has reduced his fuel costs, litter-disposal problems and environmental concerns. His next project: a cost-effective methane digester for commercial use on broiler operations.

Conquering tough challenges is nothing new to John Logan. For nearly four decades, the retired Army colonel led complex information technology, logistics and transportation projects around the globe — while juggling a career in computer marketing and management, and serving on university faculties.

So, in 1994, when he and his wife, Bettye, decided to return to her family’s farm at Prentiss, Miss., they weren’t daunted by the challenges that awaited them.

"The farm had sat idle for 30 years, and the soil really needed work," recalls Logan. Despite having no poultry experience, a recent consulting gig had piqued his interest in the poultry business. He envisioned building a broiler business as the center of the farming operation.

Challenge No. 1: Building a Business

Within a year, the Logans had constructed five chicken houses and were raising broilers for Tyson Foods. "I needed something that would provide a dependable cash flow, and from there we could grow the other farm operations," says Logan. For the first five years, the couple ran the business with only the help of a nephew. Over time, they added five more houses, accommodating 270,000 broilers.

John and Bettye Logan

John and Bettye Logan have transformed their family farm into a place for pioneering energy and by-product resources.

Likewise, the challenges expanded. "I realized that labor and utilities were the only two items I had control over," says Logan, who solved the labor challenge by hiring two full-time employees.

Challenge No. 2: Controlling Energy Costs

But solving the utility-cost challenge and his other primary challenge — what to do with the never-ending supply of poultry litter — would take a bit more ingenuity.

"Fuel costs are the biggest costs for the poultry business," says Land Bank South Vice President Steve Lazenby, whose cooperative helps to finance Logan’s Brinson Farms operations. "Propane has doubled in recent years, and that’s hitting poultry producers hard. If you can find a way to hold those costs in line, that’s big."

At Brinson Farms alone, the energy bill was exceeding $75,000 per year. Statewide, it costs more than $40 million in propane, natural gas and electricity to run Mississippi’s 7,000-plus poultry houses.

Challenge No. 3: A Use for Poultry Litter

At the same time, with fears of mad cow disease escalating, poultry operators like Logan faced a U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on feeding poultry litter to cattle. In addition, concerns were mounting over high phosphorous levels resulting from the use of poultry litter as fertilizer on cattle-grazing lands. "There are farms that are condemned because of the high phosphorous levels," says Logan. "It will take three to five years to get that land back into production."

I went from one month of $5,000 in power bills to the electric company owing me $250 for the excess power I generated."

– John Logan

An avowed environmentalist, Logan was increasingly concerned with creating a sustainable operation. "What happens if the government outlaws the use of chicken litter on the ground?" says the two-time Tyson Environmental Stewardship Award recipient. "It has happened in other states already, and it is likely to eventually happen in all the states bordering the Gulf Coast."

Solution No. 1: Be Bold

The solution to both challenges, Logan believed, was to find a way to use the endless supply of poultry litter to reduce fuel costs on the farm and solve the environmental issues.

Having traveled the world with the military, he had seen methane digesters in use throughout Europe and Asia. "They have been using digesters there for years, and the more I looked into it, the more convinced I was that I had a manure product suitable for a digester," he says.

In the U.S., methane-gas-capture systems already had proven technically and economically viable on 14 swine farms, 15 dairies and 2 caged-layer operations — but never on a broiler farm.

Solution No. 2: Do the Research

When he first approached state leaders with the idea of building a poultry-litter methane digester, the response was skeptical. "At first, the state felt the manure would have too many wood shavings in it to be viable," he says. Logan was not deterred. Tyson Foods had long ago reduced the use of wood shavings from their growers’ houses to help strengthen the chicks’ immune systems.

"We were looking for grant money but everyone was skeptical of whether a digester would work with poultry," he recalls. "With my technical background, I knew that you don’t just jump into something like this without good solid research." So, research it, he did.

Logan enlisted the help of Dr. Richard Vetter, the consultant who helped develop the caged-layer farm’s digester. He worked with experts at Mississippi State and West Virginia State universities for two years to cultivate the exact methanigen bacteria needed to output methane and a liquefied fertilizer. He brought in an electrical and computer engineer and a microbiologist to prove the system.

"Once we started, we flew all over the U.S. looking at digesters in operation at dairy and swine farms. We were able to accumulate a lot of information that helped us design the system," he notes.

Solution No. 3: Get the Funding

The data did its job. While Land Bank South provided seed money to start up the venture, most funding has come through grants. Among them are a $500,000 Mississippi Development Authority grant to develop the system; a Department of Energy grant earmarked for Logan to conduct educational seminars ("We’ve done a zillion of those," he says); a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) renewal energy grant to build a solar system for fresh-water heating; a USDA conservation initiative grant for the computerization; and a value-added grant for organic-fertilizer marketing studies.

Solution No. 4: Be Commercially Viable

Today, methane gas from Logan’s digester fuels two power generators and heats Brinson Farms’ poultry houses. "I went from one month of $5,000 in power bills to the electric company owing me $250 for the excess power I generated," Logan says.

One ton of chicken litter produces more than 5 million BTUs of methane gas. His excess power is sold on the Mississippi electric grid at 3.5 cents per KwH. Projecting that the system will offset his annual energy costs by $98,000, Logan expects full payback in seven years.

With commercial development of the first two units under way in Mississippi, farmers in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana are keeping a close watch.

"We’re working on developing a replicable on-farm system with a cost below $400,000," Logan says. "There are many tax credits to help make the system cash flow, and this system gives the farmer an additional source of revenue and alleviates the issue of farmers having to be concerned about phosphorous plans, showing what they will do with their poultry litter."

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Farm Bureau Conf. Addresses Environmental Issues In Agriculture

Environmental issues in agriculture are as diverse as the industry itself, and environmental regulation plays a critical role in the day-to-day work of farmers and ranchers. Farm Bureau staff from across the nation came together in Jackson, Miss., May 30-June 2 to discuss this key topic at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Environmental Issues Conference.

Marla Peek, Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) Director of Regulatory Affairs, joined other attendees at the conference, which focused on issues such as water quality, wetlands, CERCLA (Superfund act), the Food Quality Protection Act deadline, energy issues including the 25x25 Coalition and conservation titles as environmental benefits and income sources.

"The conference is designed to allow states to communicate, and speakers from Farm Bureau gave updates on national environmental issues that are of interest to Farm Bureau members," said Peek.

At the conference, Peek updated the delegation on recent legislation passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives affirming animal manure is not a hazardous waste. Peek's presentation and similar presentations from four other states and AFBF were followed by roundtable discussions.

A highlight of the annual four-day conference was a daylong field trip to an organic fertilizer plant, a blueberry farm and a poultry farm to learn about innovative and environmentally-friendly methods utilized by these agribusinesses.

John Logan's poultry farm, Brinson Farms, utilizes a methane digester, which converts waste from his chickens into energy to heat his 10 poultry houses. The fertilizer plant, Agreaux Organics, uses pulverized poultry litter to make pathogen-free, organic fertilizers. The plant pays poultry producers $19 per ton for the raw, delivered litter.

"We've talked extensively at the state level about value-added things that farmers can do with chicken manure," said Peek. "I brought home several ideas that may help Oklahoma poultry producers."

Peek said the examples provided through the education tours combined with national collaboration during the roundtable discussions were beneficial aspects of the conference.

"You can't help but get ideas for things to look at for policy development and projects," she said. "It was a good opportunity to look at how people have put projects together, like the methane digester, and to think about how I can do that in my state."

Original Article