Responding to mounting pressure from local communities impacted by its pollution, investors, customers, and the environmental community, Tyson Foods has announced a commitment to improve farming practices on two million acres of grain by 2020. This commitment will include efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural runoff pollution from grains grown for animal feed, although the specifics and implementation plan have not yet been made public. Tyson’s commitment would cover about half of its U.S. feed supply chain.
Tyson Foods is America’s largest meat company and has significant influence over farming practices throughout its meat and feed supply chain. The meat industry is the leading source of water contamination in the country, with pollution from manure and feed production contaminating drinking water and productive waterways across the country. Mighty Earth released an investigation last summer linking Tyson’s supply chain to widespread water pollution and the largest dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans across the Midwest, Gulf of Mexico, and Chesapeake Bay have joined Mighty Earth’s #CleanItUpTyson campaign, which has been calling on the company to address water contamination driven by its supply chain. Mighty Earth’s campaign emphasizes sustainable feed sourcing practices, which have been largely ignored by the industry, as significant opportunities to reduce meat’s environmental and public health impacts. Key areas for improving feed sourcing include improper fertilization, poor soil management practices, non-diverse crop rotations, and destruction of natural ecosystem buffers, such as wetlands and grasslands.
While ambitious, Tyson’s announcement does not yet contain details about how this commitment will be implemented or verified. Other major environmental impacts from Tyson’s supply chain that the company has yet to address include greenhouse gas emissions and runoff from improperly disposed manure, destruction of native ecosystems to produce feed, methane from cattle, and toxic discharges from local facilities.
More information on the #CleanItUpTyson campaign can be found at http://www.mightyearth.org/u-s-agriculture/.