Liviya James

Local residents gather to send Tyson Foods a message: “Don’t Tread on Tennessee”

Around 80 residents of Haywood County and several neighboring West Tennessee communities gathered at a town hall meeting this month to send a clear message to Tyson Foods: “Don’t Tread on Tennessee.”

Attendees expressed concern about water and air pollution associated with Tyson’s expanding poultry operations in the region, and many shared their frustrations over the complete deregulation of the poultry industry in TN over the past several years. Others called for “big state government” to get off the backs of local governments seeking to enforce more stringent zoning regulations for industrial poultry operations than what the state compels.

Tyson’s Tennessee expansion comes after citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas protested and rejected the company’s $320 million proposal to build a new chicken processing plant in their region. Citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas cited concerns about the social and environmental impacts of the company’s proposal, including water pollution risks, as grounds for the rejection.

In May, Tyson broke ground on an industrial poultry processing plant in Gibson County, TN without complete permits from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation. Tyson also plans to increase capacity at its Union City processing plant in nearby Obion County. According to Tyson, these two plants will process an estimated 120 million chickens each year and will require an additional 587 industrial chicken houses that will generate significant quantities of manure and other air, water, and public health pollutants. This expansion is set to occur along significant tributaries of the Mississippi River that are already classified as impaired by the EPA due to runoff pollution from industrial agriculture operations.

Natalie Pinner, a sixth-generation farm owner from Haywood County, discussed how Tyson growers from Arkansas recently tried to buy two neighboring properties on both sides of her family farm. “I don’t think when they came to Haywood County they realized we were going to put up this kind of fight,” said Pinner. “We do everything as a community and I just want them to realize we’re not standing for it.”

Other attendees included state Rep. Johnny Shaw, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, President and CEO of the Brownsville/Haywood County Chamber of Commerce Steve Hilton, and a number of candidates for county mayor, county commission, and state representative. In the week following the town hall, two major opponents to Tyson’s expansion were elected to local office: David Livingston was elected Mayor of Haywood County, and Sharon Hayes was elected to the Haywood County Commission, which oversees local zoning.

“Tyson has a long track record of ignoring concerns from local communities about water and public health risks from its operations and pushing clean-up costs for its pollution onto taxpayers,” said Lucia von Reusner, Campaign Director for Mighty Earth. “Given the company’s poor reputation on the environment and community health, it’s no surprise that local residents in Tennessee don’t want Tyson as a neighbor.”


Flunking the Planet: America’s Leading Food Companies Fail on Sustainable Meat

Flunking the Planet: America’s Leading Food Companies Fail on Sustainable Meat

A new report from Mighty Earth found widespread failure across the food industry to address the environmental impacts of the meat supply chain, and provides recommendations for how companies can improve. “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. The scorecard evaluates environmental standards related to feed sourcing, manure management, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Meat is one of the most environmentally polluting products in the world — responsible for widespread water pollution, climate emissions, and the destruction of native ecosystems like rainforests and prairies. “Flunking the Planet” evaluated leading companies who have built their brand on providing sustainable options, such as Whole Foods, have no environmental standards for their meat, and in fact are buying from some of the most polluting companies in the country, including Tyson Foods and Cargill.

  • Nineteen companies had no sustainability commitments for mitigating the environmental impacts of their sourced meat whatsoever. They all received an “F,” both for their overall scores and the individual scores for each highlighted issue.
  • Walmart was the only company to earn above a failing grade, with an overall score of “D” for its supply-chain greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal, as well as agricultural programs focused on improving practices for corn and soy production and manure management.
  • The food service industry that caters meals to universities and hospitals is doing the most to promote plant-based diets, with Aramark reporting that 30 percent of its menus offer non-meat options and Sodexo reducing beef consumption through its mushroom-blended burger initiative.

 

 

These companies serve our meals and sell us groceries, and they have significant control over the kind of meat that ends up on our dinner tables. Grocery stores like Walmart and Whole Foods and meal outlets like McDonald’s and Burger King have the power to set and enforce standards requiring better farming practices from suppliers. With customers, investors, and agricultural communities increasingly concerned about the meat industry’s environmental devastation, food companies need to demand better from their meat suppliers and provide customers with more sustainable options.

Meaty Consequences of Industrial Farming

Runoff pollution from industrial farms that produce animal feed is the main source of water contamination across the United States 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.

 

Mighty Earth’s reports ‘Mystery Meat I’ and ‘Mystery Meat II’ investigate and reveal the environmental devastation driven by the meat industry, and the companies responsible. These reports show that a small handful of powerful agribusinesses like Tyson and Cargill dominate the meat supply chain, and bare primary responsibility for driving the negative impacts as well as delivering solutions at scale. Click here to learn more about our work to hold the industry responsible for its environmental impacts in the United States and Latin America.