This map combines information about slaughterhouses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Data about the types of livestock and poultry processed at each facility, and the estimated volume of animals slaughtered and/or processed comes from USDA, Dataset: Establishment Demographic Data (MPI Directory Supplement), 10 May 2021 release. Geographic coordinates for each facility were downloaded from the map at USDA’s Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory website on 13 May 2021.
Pollution data was downloaded from two EPA sources on 15 May 2021. Data on facilities with a primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code of 3116 or with a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code of 2011, 2013, 2015 or 2077 that reported releases to surface water in 2019 were downloaded from EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Calculated loadings based on Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMR) in 2019 for nitrogen, organic enrichment, phosphorus and solids from facilities with a primary NAICS code of 3116 or a SIC code of 2011, 2013, 2015 or 2077 were downloaded from EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online database using the Water Pollutant Loading Tool.
Facilities are included in the map if they meet one or more of these criteria:
Beef or pork facility that USDA lists with a “slaughter volume category” of “4” (the highest category for these facilities), meaning it handles 100,000 to 10 million animals per year, or chicken or turkey facility that USDA lists with a “slaughter volume category” of “5,” meaning it handles 10 million or more animals per year.
Reported a direct discharge to surface waters in the downloaded TRI data.
Appeared in the downloaded Water Pollutant Loading Tool data with non-zero levels of pollution.
We excluded egg processing facilities that we believe appeared erroneously with a NAICS code of 3116 or a SIC code of 2115.
To pair the USDA facility information with facilities for which EPA had water pollution data, all facilities were mapped in QGIS. A nearest neighbor analysis showed the proximity of each facility from the USDA data to a facility in EPA’s data. Facilities were checked for matching facility names, street addresses or other confirmation of a match before pairing facility information with water pollution data. A number of facilities listed in the USDA data did not have a corresponding entry in EPA pollution data because they do not report any discharges to water that appear in the EPA database.
A number of facilities that appear in the EPA data do not appear on the USDA facility list at all, likely because they are rendering or waste facilities that deal with byproducts or with fish, and are not regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
When water pollution information for a facility appeared in both the TRI and Water Pollutant Loading Tool data, the Water Pollutant Loading Tool data was used. We made one exception for a Pilgrim’s Pride facility in Enterprise, Alabama, where the pollution levels listed in the Water Pollutant Loading Tool were improbably high, and we chose to use the TRI information. We retained pollution information for eight facilities where EPA flagged that the data may contain potential outliers. Nitrogen and phosphorus water pollution was aggregated for each facility for which data was available from the Water Pollutant Loading Tool. Nitrate compound information is presented for facilities for which data came from TRI. Amounts of other pollutants were not aggregated to avoid potential double-counting.
Watershed information was obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Map Downloader on 7 July 2021. Watersheds are displayed at the 4-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) level, and "local watershed" information in facility popups refers to 12-digit HUCs. For those facilities that did not have watershed information contained in their original data, associated watersheds were determined using QGIS mapping software. Nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrate compound pollution were then aggregated by watershed for facilities with available pollution data.
The USGS Watershed Boundary Dataset displayed on the map has been simplified in order to speed page load times. As result, for some facilities – such as Ferdinand Processing in Indiana, and Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation and Mar-Jac Poultry in Gainesville, Georgia – the facility's actual watershed differs from the watershed in which the facility appears on the map. When assigning watersheds to facilities that did not have EPA-provided watershed information, original full resolution watershed boundaries were used.