Politico Report: Meat Processing Plants Are Frequent Polluters

Politico’s Morning Agriculture

REPORT: MEAT-PROCESSING PLANTS ARE FREQUENT POLLUTERS: Three-quarters of meat-processing plants that discharge wastewater into rivers and streams were found to have violated thresholds in their pollution-control permits over the last two years, per a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. According to the analysis of EPA data, 74 out of 98 large plants that released more than 250,000 gallons per day exceeded permitted limits for nitrogen, fecal bacteria or other pollutants at least once. More than half of the meatpackers that mainly process beef, pork and poultry had five violations, and one-third committed at least 10.

Biggest violators: Tyson Foods was responsible for the most registered violations, at 26 of its plants last year, followed by Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Cargill, Wayne Farms and Smithfield. A pork plant in Beardstown, Ill., operated by JBS discharged the most nitrate pollution in 2017, flushing an average of 1,848 pounds of nitrate per day into a tributary of the Illinois River. For comparison, the median amount of nitrogen disposed per day by slaughterhouses analyzed in the report was 331 pounds. That’s equivalent to the amount of raw sewage generated by a town of 14,000 people.

Call for increased enforcement: The report, conducted with research from Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, recommended stricter state and federal enforcement, and for EPA to update water pollution standards for meat processing plants. Advocates also suggested that state pollution-control permits be made more restrictive and that states prohibit waste-disposal methods that risk contaminating nearby drinking-water sources, such as spraying waste onto fields as fertilizer.