Tyson among top water polluters in Texas

Media Contacts

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

HOUSTON – Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat and poultry producers, generates the most animal manure of major companies surveyed nationwide, a new report said today.

The Environment Texas 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 Hayden Hamilton, Clean Water Advocate with Environment Texas. “But this report shows how, increasingly, corporations like Tyson are running our farms and ruining our waterways.”

By concentrating thousands of animals on factory farms, corporate agribusinesses create industrial scale pollution with disastrous consequences for waterways in Texas 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 across the country per year—manure that too often ends up untreated, fouling rivers, streams, and our oceans.

The Tyson poultry-processing center in Center, TX discharged 615,811 pounds of toxic pollutants into local 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. In the state of Texas, Pilgrims Pride reported the highest discharge rate, releasing 2,766,086 pounds of toxic pollutants into local waters in 2014. Agricultural and food facilities, including Borden, Dean Foods and HEB, also reported discharging 1.2 million pounds of toxic chemicals in to wastewater treatment plants in Texas that year.  

Most of these company’s toxic discharges are nitrates, which are linked to birth defects, such as blue baby syndrome and some forms of cancer. [i]

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, agriculture contributes to the impairment of 690 miles of rivers and streams in Texas. In the Houston region, TCEQ estimates that 40,000 livestock contribute to contamination in the San Jacinto River watershed, a key contributor to the Houston water supply.

Animal agriculture facilities can pollute waterways that wreak havoc on the environment thousands of miles away. Manure and commercial fertilizers from the large-scale animal agriculture operations in Midwestern states, contribute to the dead zone all the way in the Gulf of Mexico.

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

  • the Brazilian meat giant JBS, owner of Pilgrims Pride, 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 Hamilton. “It’s time to hold them accountable for their pollution of our environment – just as Americans a generation ago did with industrial polluters.”


[i] https://vitalrecord.tamhsc.edu/agricultural-compounds-drinking-water-linked-birth-defects/