According to a report by Environment America, the 568 million chickens raised on the Delmarva Peninsula — many of them owned by Perdue — generate an estimated 1.1 billion pounds of chicken litter every year. That manure in rainwater runoff was cited as a major contributor to the Chesapeake Bay’s pollution problems in a report that explored how giant corporate factory-farms pollute waterways in the United States.
Handful of Big Ag Companies Responsible for A Lot of Water Pollution
Fewer than a dozen corporations control the majority of the beef, pork and chicken produced in the United States. Environment America presented 8 case studies of factory-farm corporations and their impact on the environment:
Archer Daniels Midland and chemical-intensive corn – This agriculture commodities giant has lobbied for massive corn subsidies for production of high fructose corn syrup and ethanol. Industrialized corn is the number one source of nitrogen pollution responsible for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cargill and factory pork farming - Cargill owns 3 facilities that are among the top 20 dischargers of toxic chemicals to waterways in 2008 in the United States.
JBS and factory-farm beef - The Brazilian food company recently paid a $1.9 million fine for pollution – including E. coli, ammonia, phosphorus - from its rendering plant located along Pennsylvania’s Skippack Creek, which triggered a series of fish kills.
Perdue and contract chicken farming – The company’s 568 million chickens contribute to the algae blooms that deplete oxygen levels in 78% of the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months.
Pilgrim’s Pride and chicken processing – One of the company’s plants is the largest source of nitrogen pollution in northeast Texas’ Lake o’ the Pines.
Smithfield Foods and hog waste – The company owns many of the 3 million hogs in North Carolina’s Neuse River basin responsible for half of the phosphorus and a third of the nitrogen nutrients fueling algae blooms that starve the river of oxygen and can trigger fish kills.
Tyson Foods and poultry farms – Spreading much of the poultry waste from 2,800 poultry farms, which is equivalent to waste produced by 10.7 million people, on agricultural land without treatment is a threat to the Illinois River watershed throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Vreba-Hoff and factory dairy - Consolidation in the milk industry and pollution from the resulting giant dairies in in Michigan and Ohio may be contributing to the re-emergence of the dead zone in Lake Erie.
“Across the country, agribusiness contributes to making 100,000 miles of rivers and 2,500 square miles of inland lakes too polluted for swimming, fishing, drinking and/or wildlife habitat,” writes Environment America in its press release. “A company like Cargill should guarantee that not one pound of poop from its pork winds up in our waters,” charged John Rumpler, senior attorney for the group.
The group’s release contrasts small farmers who manage to be responsible about their environmental impact and argues that multi-billion dollar companies should be able to do the same. Environment America is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection agency and the states to crack down on water pollution from Big Ag.
Pollution Part of a Larger Problem of Factory Farms
Care2 readers have many concerns about factory farms – from animal welfare to corporate consolidation – but cracking down on their water pollution is certainly a step in the right direction.
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