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The Pros and Cons of Chicken Plants in Downtown Cumming

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The Pros and Cons of Chicken Plants in Downtown Cumming

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Downtown Cumming is an older section of Cumming, GA, home to antique historical buildings like the Forsyth County Courthouse and City Hall, along with many hole-in-the-wall restaurants and small businesses. It is widely considered the heart of the town. However, it has lost its charm due to the strong smell emanating from neighboring chicken plants.

Tyson Foods owns one of the larger chicken processing plants in the area, which resides in the southern half of town. The company is one of the world’s largest producers of meat and poultry, ranking second place on the charts. In addition, Koch Foods (an unrelated company) also operates a large plant in the area.

Manufacturing jobs (largely from processing plants like the one owned by Tyson Foods) make up 9.8% of employment in Forsyth County, putting over 8700 people to work. Within only the city of Cumming, manufacturing comprises an even higher 15% of all jobs. The meat processing business has been described as very beneficial to both the city and the county as a whole, and it has helped Forsyth’s unemployment rate be “…among the lowest in the region” (City Of Cumming Comprehensive Plan 2017-2037).

However, over the past few years, the plants have been receiving several complaints about the odor they emit as a byproduct of processing the meat. People who live within a several mile radius of the plants have described the smell of ammonia, especially in the early mornings. The odor likely stems from chicken corpses and the use of ammonia refrigeration, the industry-standard practice of using ammonia to keep food cold. It has no effect on the environment and is generally safe to use under proper care. However, the smell is still a prevalent part of anyone’s commute through town.

“I used to go for early morning walks every day, but sometimes I just have to go back in and wait it out” says Laura S., a resident of a small neighborhood located 7.2 miles from the Tyson plant. “If I had to put it into actual words…” she continues, “…it’s like rotten guts”.

Local businesses also have something to say about the pervasive odor. The manager of Carniceria Hernandez, a meat market/grocery store located half a mile from the plant (and within spitting distance of the Koch Foods plant) attests, “The smell is strong, disgusting sometimes. It’s impossible to escape, and it’s even worse in the summer.”

However, not all opinions of the smell are completely negative. An employee of a hair salon equally distant to the plant argued that the smell has gotten better over the years; some days she doesn’t notice it at all. One user on Facebook described it as “the smell of money”.

There have also been several occasions in which unlucky drivers have encountered spillings of chicken fat on the road, leaked from the back of transport trucks. The fat can be dangerous to drive over, and it can also leave behind a lingering smell on both roads and cars. There have been cases where Tyson was the culprit behind these kinds of incidents which can take hours to clean up and tend to create long traffic jams.

Tyson Foods also has a long track record of polluting bodies of water all over the US, primarily in the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. In a 2016 report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center, Tyson was found to have “a staggering water pollution footprint, including manure from factory farms in its supply chain, direct dumping of pollution into rivers, and numerous incidents and alleged violations…”. Whether or not the plant located in Cumming is involved in these operations is unknown.

The chicken plants have unfortunately developed a mostly negative reputation around the city of Cumming, a taint that will take years to repair. Despite their efforts in improving Cumming’s regional economy and unemployment rate, many people are still pestered by the pervasive odor.

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Sarina Starling, Staff Writer

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Hi, my name is Sarina and ever since I could remember, I have always enjoyed writing and creating stories. I have also loved to read...

Baylor Collins, Staff Writer

My name is Baylor Collins, I’m a sophmore, and writing about myself usually saps most of my mental energy. Why? I don’t do much, that’s why. I couldn’t...

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