On an average day, Georgia produces around 26 million pounds of chicken, according to the Georgia Poultry Federation.
“(Poultry is) the No. 1 agricultural industry in Georgia,” said Linda Purvis, biology and poultry science instructor with the University of North Georgia.
“Poultry is No. 1 as far as agricultural commodities in Georgia ... and then the egg industry, which is also under the umbrella of poultry science, is the No. 3 agricultural commodity in Georgia. So (poultry) holds the top position as far as the amount of money we’re bringing in (to the state.)”
Purvis leads the poultry science program at the University of North Georgia, a small yet growing-in-popularity associate’s degree based at the Gainesville campus. The department was a recent recipient of a $3,100 grant from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association to help recruit high school students into the field.
“There are lots and lots of jobs to be had” in the industry, Purvis said. “People are going to eat. People are going to eat chicken and eggs because they’re the cheapest source of protein you can get. So the poultry industry is very stable. It’s not going to go away.”
She added there are many careers associated with chickens.
“(People) think of poultry and they think of chickens in the large truck going down the road and the processing plant,” Purvis said. “They don’t think any further out than that. There’s actually more jobs in poultry-related type companies than you would think.”
Careers range from managerial to veterinary, also including government positions to provide oversight and inspections.
The $3,100 grant will not only be used for Purvis to go to high schools to speak with students at college fairs and in agriculture programs, but also to send up to five Georgia high school students to Avian Adventures, a summer program at the University of Georgia.
Application information will be sent to various high schools, and interested students can also contact Purvis at email@example.com.
Right now, only 10 students have declared poultry science as a major; there are around 30 students with an agriculture-related major, according to Purvis.
Students majoring in poultry science can earn a two-year associate’s degree, using those classes to transition to the nearby University of Georgia for further study.
Purvis herself went through the program in the 1990s; she began teaching at the then-Gainesville State College in 2008.
There had been no one in place qualified to teach the poultry science courses since around 2005, she said, so the school asked her help in relaunching the program.
“Since I have started the classes in 2010, every semester, there’s more and more students I find on campus who are interested in it,” Purvis said. “Mainly because of the availability of jobs immediately after college.”