Whole Foods gets an “F” on sustainable meat report card

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Brian Zabcik

Lack of environmental standards by major U.S. meat suppliers and meat buyers is driving massive dead zone in Gulf of Mexico

Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

AUSTIN — This year’s massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is being driven by major food companies who have no environmental standards for meat, a new report released today by Environment Texas and Mighty Earth finds.
“Flunking the Planet: Scoring America’s Food Companies on Sustainable Meat” found that none of the 23 major brands surveyed — representing the largest fast food, grocery, and food service companies in the U.S. — have policies in place to require even minimal environmental protections from meat suppliers. Even “green” brands such as Whole Foods have failed to commit to environmentally responsible farming practices that protect drinking water, prevent agricultural runoff, and curb climate emissions.
Meat is one of the most environmentally polluting products in the world. Runoff pollution from industrial farms that produce animal feed is the main source of water contamination in the country, and causes a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico each summer. According to a recent report, the top five meat companies, including Tyson Foods and Cargill, emit more greenhouse gases combined than Exxon-Mobil, Shell, or BP. The meat industry is also responsible for widespread destruction of native ecosystems, as new industrial agriculture expands onto rainforests and prairies around the world.
“Flunking the Planet” found that 22 of the 23 companies scored an “F” for their environmental policies — or lack thereof — for meat sourcing. The companies were evaluated on their requirements for meat suppliers regarding feed sourcing, manure processing, and greenhouse gas emissions management. The only company to receive a better score than an “F” was Walmart, which received a “D” due to its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its supply chain, as well as for its programs to improve farming practices for corn, soy, and manure management.
“No one wants to eat meat that’s causing massive water pollution, dead zones, or climate change,” said Lucia von Reusner, Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. “This report shows that there’s dire need for leadership from food companies in holding their meat suppliers to higher standards. Customers want products that respect the environment.”
Failing companies include Whole Foods, which bills itself as “America’s healthiest grocery store” and has built its brand on providing sustainable food options. However, as the new report shows, Whole Foods requires no environmental safeguards or practices from its meat suppliers, and in fact sources meat from some of the most polluting agribusinesses in the country, including Tyson Foods and Cargill. Others receiving an “F” in all categories included Costco, Trader Joe’s, Subway, Starbucks, and US Foods.
“It’s disappointing to see Whole Foods fail on its ‘sustainable’ brand image, especially given that other companies like Walmart have begun to recognize the environmental impact of corporate meat production,” said Brian Zabcik, Clean Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “One of America’s most trusted food companies is doing nothing to clean up meat supplier practices that are polluting our nation’s streams, lakes, and bays.”
The 23 companies surveyed were Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Restaurant Brands International, Starbucks, Subway, Wendy’s, Yum! Brands, Albertsons Companies, Costco Wholesale, The Kroger Company, Target Corporation, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Wegmans Food, Whole Foods, Aramark, Compass Group, Sodexo, Sysco Corporation, and US Foods.
Environment Texas advocates for clean air, clean water, and preservation of Texas’ natural areas on behalf of 35,000 members and online activists statewide.

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change.