We examine socioecological drivers of nutrient overloading and eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay associated with poultry production on the Delmarva Peninsula. We use a social metabolic analysis—rooted in a political-economy perspective—that highlights the interchange of matter and energy and the inextricable links within and between social and ecological systems, illuminating the social structural processes contributing to ecological changes. The concentration and consolidation of poultry production through integration, which involves contract farming, and geographic concentration of operations, have been associated with intensified and increased scale of chicken (broiler) production. These processes have had significant effects on waste accumulation, maintenance, and disposal, and this industry has become one of the major contributors of nutrient overloading in the Chesapeake Bay. This study, therefore, specifies social processes that are driving environmental changes between land and sea.

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