Tyson Foods Dumped Hundreds of Millions of Pounds of Slaughterhouse Pollutants Into US Waterways, Report Finds


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A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has found that Tyson Foods dumped hundreds of millions of pounds of pollutants into U.S. waterways from 2018 to 2022. The pollutants came from company facilities including slaughterhouses and processing plants.

UCS analyzed publicly available data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and found that Tyson Foods processing plants released 371.72 million pounds of pollutants into waterways from 2018 to 2022. Half of the pollutants were dumped in waterways of Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri. The group published the findings in a report titled Waste Deep: How Tyson Foods Pollutes US Waterways and Which States Bear the Brunt.

“As the nation’s largest meat and poultry producer, Tyson Foods plays a huge role in our food and agriculture system and has for decades exploited policies that allow big agribusiness corporations to pollute with impunity,” Omanjana Goswami, co-author of the report and an interdisciplinary scientist with the Food and Environment Program at UCS, said in a press release. “In 2022, the latest year for which we have data, Tyson plants processed millions of cattle and pigs and billions of chickens, and discharged over 18.5 billion gallons of wastewater, enough to fill more than 37,000 Olympic swimming pools.”

Waterways in Nebraska had the most wastewater pollutants dumped by Tyson Foods plants, about 30% of the total or 111 million pounds, UCS reported. The pollutants dumped in Nebraska included 4.06 million pounds of nitrate, which a 2021 study linked to increased risks of central nervous system cancers in children.

According to the National Provisioner, Tyson Foods is one of the top meat and poultry processing companies in the U.S. From 2018 to 2022, it generated 87 billion gallons of wastewater, based on EPA data. This wastewater can include pathogens and microorganisms (such as E. coli) and slaughterhouse byproducts, such as body parts of animals, feces and blood.

As noted in the report, the dumped pollutants contained high amounts of nitrogen (34.25 million pounds) and phosphorus (5.06 million pounds), which can contribute to algal blooms in waterways. As UCS pointed out in its analysis, many Tyson Foods facilities are located near waterways that are home to threatened and endangered species.

The facilities are also positioned near historically underserved communities, leading to additional pollution near and burden on vulnerable populations.

“Pollution from these plants also raises environmental justice concerns,” Stacy Woods, co-author of the report and research director for the Food and Environment Program at UCS, said in a press release. “We know from previous research that almost 75% of water-polluting meat and poultry processing facilities are located within one mile of communities that already shoulder heavy economic, health or environmental burdens. In mapping these plants, we found Tyson largely fit that pattern, with many plants located near communities where people live with more pollution, less socioeconomic and political power, and worse health compared to other areas of the United States.”

The report provides insight into a larger problem. As The Guardian reported, meat processing pollution in the U.S. is much higher and goes beyond Tyson Foods.

“There are over 5,000 meat and poultry processing plants in the United States, but only a fraction are required to report pollution and abide by limits,” Goswami told The Guardian. “As one of the largest processors in the game, with a near-monopoly in some states, Tyson is in a unique position to treat even hefty fines and penalties for polluting as simply the cost of doing business. This has to change.”

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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