Chesapeake Bay Polluted by 568 Million Chickens

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

What do you think?

Factory farm picture by flickr user CALM Action


Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 4 years ago

thank you for sharing 16/7

Sarah Bennett
Sarah Bennett6 years ago

Well, that explains a lot. I grew up playing around a creek that was near chicken farms and they were always full of algae. Now I know why. However, most of the wastes from these chicken farms were used as fertilizer to local farmers and gardeners which is a good thing. Same with the waste from cows in the area. Best of all, both are free to the local farmers. So not everything is bad about it here in Texas.

Vanessa S.
Vanessa S7 years ago

It is very depressing that this is the kind of world we are leaving to our children. Although becoming vegan is a great way not to contribute to this problem, we also cannot stop there. We have to be realistic and realize, admit, and accept that not everyone is willing to make that kind of lifestyle change. Therefore if we really want to make a difference, we need to push for policy changes to improve these conditions and make sure they are enforced once they are passed.

Ramona Thompson
Ramona Thompson7 years ago

Unless our elected officials start listening to their constituents and not to high paid lobbyists, we will sink in the muck. The power is supposed to be to the people, not to corporations, lobbyists, etc.

Carol Cowbrough
Carol C7 years ago

Noted. Thanks.

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer M7 years ago

And Joy, you are delusional if you think that!!!

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer M7 years ago

Perfect reasons to be vegetarian. Why don't people care?? It's disgusting.

Chris A.
Chris A.7 years ago

Making a mess on a grand scale! All chickens should be free range, and some who do not eat meat, use eggs.

The major "by-product" is guano. This is a valuable natural fertilizer. Perhaps we should think recycling, and apply this to human sewage. Our current system of dumping into the sea is disgusting, Additionally to this is the loss of important minerals and trace elements that should be recycled. Perhaps we would not need case loads of (expensive) pills to replace the continuing decline in mineral wealth of our fields.

Margarita  Armi M.

La agricultura industrial no solo es perjudicial para la salud humana sino muy cruel y se debe prohibir. (en todos los paises)

Bill H.
Bill H.7 years ago

I am no fan of either side of this arguement. Both sides have costs that will eventually be passed on to me, the taxpayer. I can no longer afford either. Pilgrims, through buying politicans, passes the cost of infrastructure on to the taxpayer, enviornmentalists though their purchase of politicans passes the cost of regulation and cleanup on to the taxpayers.

Simply, I can't afford either side.