On Thursday, Pilgrim’s Pride - second-largest chicken producer in the world – will face a shareholder resolution calling on the company to curb water pollution from its operations and supply chain. The demand for action comes after the company settled a citizens’ suit from Environment America for $1.43 million for dumping toxic wastewater into Florida’s Suwannee River.
“Pollution should not be a matter of pride for Pilgrims,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America. “Will Pilgrim’s Pride clean up its coop or chicken out on its responsibility to stop fouling America’s waterways?”
Pilgrim’s Pride operations and supply chain, which processes roughly 37 million birds per week, is responsible for significant water pollution in several states, including Texas, Florida, and Virginia. In addition to millions of pounds of manure and runoff from feed production, the company’s own processing plants dump pollution directly into our rivers and streams. In 2014 alone, Pilgrim’s Pride facilities dumped more than half a million pounds of toxic pollutants into U.S. waterways, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory.
Investors are citing this track-record of pollution as they urge Pilgrims to adopt a corporate policy to reduce its water pollution at tomorrow’s shareholder meeting in Greeley, Colorado. Pilgrim’s Pride is owned by the Brazil-based meat conglomerate JBS, which controls a majority of shares that will vote on resolutions at tomorrow’s meeting. Thewater pollution footprint of Pilgrims Pride and JBS combined included more than 45 million tons of manure (in 2015) and 37 million pounds of toxic discharges to waterways (from 2010-2014).
“Pilgrim’s Pride has a long and well-documented record of water pollution that has resulted in record fines, costly restitution of rivers and streams and negative press that has seriously compromised the brand’s image,” said Anna Falkenberg, representative of the Oblate International Pastoral Investment Trust, the lead filer of the shareholder proposal. “Of even greater concern is the public health risk created by the company’s systematic dumping of dangerous contaminants and its regular fouling of local waterways threatening communities’ human right to water. Had a comprehensive water stewardship policy been adopted much earlier as shareholders have been recommending, these financial and reputational challenges could have been avoided.”
Last year, Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to pay $1.43 million to settle a case brought by Environment America’s state affiliate in Florida, which alleged 1,377 days of Clean Water Act violations since 2012, all from discharging wastewater into the river that exceeds pollution standards by as much as triple the legal limits.
“Tomorrow, investors and consumers will learn where clean water sits in the pecking order at Pilgrim’s Pride,” said Rumpler. “For the sake of our rivers, we urge Pilgrims to commit to cutting its pollution.”