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Heather Leibowitz,
Environment New York

Report: Tyson #1 Water Polluter Among Corporate Agribusinesses

For Immediate Release

New York, NY - Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat and poultry producers, dumps more toxic pollution into the nation’s waters than any other agribusiness, and produces the most animal manure of five major companies assessed nationwide, a new report said today.

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

“When most people think of water pollution, they think of industrial pipes spewing toxic chemicals,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York. “But this report shows how, increasingly, corporations like Tyson are turning farms into factories and ruining our rivers and bays in the process.”

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

Agriculture is the probable cause for making more than 145,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country too polluted for swimming, fishing, drinking, or maintaining healthy wildlife, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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

For example, Lake Erie has been ravaged by agriculture pollution. Once a testament to the power of pollution laws, the lake has reverted to 1960’s levels of pollution, with algae blooms affecting the millions who live along the shores.

From slaughtering plants run by the company or its subsidiaries, Tyson discharged over 20 million pounds of toxic pollutants to the nation’s waters in 2014 --- more by volume than even Exxon Mobil or Dupont -- according to data the company reported to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. Most of the company’s toxic discharges are nitrates, which are linked to blue baby syndrome and some forms of cancer.

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 Foods, Environment America examined pollution records for:

  • the Brazilian meat giant JBS, with over 45.8 million tons of manure and over 37 million pounds of toxic pollutants over a five-year period;
  • Minnesota-based private company Cargill, a major cattle producer, with 39 million tons of manure annually and over 50 million pounds of toxic pollutants over a five-year period;
  • 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 27 million pounds of toxic pollutants over five years; and
  • the chicken-producer Perdue Farms, based in Maryland with over 3.7 million tons of manure and 27 million pounds of toxic pollutants over five years.

“These corporate agribusinesses have the knowhow and the resources to implement better, more sustainable ways of producing America’s food,” concluded Leibowitz. “It’s time to hold them accountable for their pollution of our environment – just as Americans a generation ago did with industrial polluters.”