Tyson among top water polluters in Illinois, country

Media Contacts
Brittany King

Environment Illinois Research and Policy Center

Chicago – Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat and poultry producers dumps more toxic pollution into Illinois waters than any other agribusiness, and produces the most animal manure of major companies surveyed nationwide, a new report said today.

The Environment Illinois Research & Policy Center study documented pollution from Tyson and four other major agriculture conglomerates, responsible for 44 percent of the pork, chicken, and beef produced in the U.S.

“When most people think of water pollution, they think of pipes dumping toxic chemicals,” said Brittany King, Campaign Organizer with Environment Illinois. “But this report shows how, increasingly, corporations like Tyson are running our farms and ruining our rivers and bays.”

By concentrating thousands of animals on factory farms, corporate agribusinesses create industrial scale pollution with disastrous consequences for waterways in Illinois and across the country.

Based on available livestock production data, the report calculates that Tyson’s supply chain generates more than 55 million tons of manure per year—manure that too often ends up untreated, fouling rivers and streams.

For example, when the Illinois River and several tributaries became so polluted with pathogens from animal waste that they were no longer safe for swimming, the Oklahoma attorney general sued Tyson and several other chicken processors to clean it up.

From slaughtering plants run by the company or its subsidiaries, Tyson discharged 2,065,975 pounds of pollutants into state waters in 2014, according to the data it provided to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. Nationwide, pollution tied to the company totaled over 20 million pounds – more by volume than even Exxon Mobil or DuPont.

Most of the company’s toxic discharges are nitrates, which are linked to blue baby syndrome and some forms of cancer.

In addition to those of Tyson, Environment Illinois examined pollution records for:

  • the Brazilian meat giant JBS, with over 45.8 million tons of manure and 6.9 million pounds of toxic pollutants;
  • Minnesota-based private company Cargill, a major cattle producer, with 39 million tons of manure and over 8 million pounds of toxic pollutants;
  • Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, based in Virginia, which claims to be the world’s largest hog producer, with over 18.9 million tons of manure and 7.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants; and
  • the chicken-producer Perdue, based in Maryland with over 3.7 million tons of manure and 4.9 million pounds of toxic pollutants.

According to the report, the solutions to curb agribusiness pollution — such as buffer zones, reduced concentration of livestock, and hauling waste out of endangered watersheds — are feasible and well-known to the industry.

“These corporate agribusinesses have the knowhow and the resources to implement better, more sustainable ways of producing America’s food.” said Karen Hudson, a farmer and Regional Associate for the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. “It’s time to hold them accountable for their pollution of our environment – just as Americans a generation ago did with industrial polluters.”