By David Coman-Hidy
The actions of the U.S. meat industry throughout the pandemic have brought to light the true corruption and waste that are inherent within our food system. Despite a new wave of rising COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently submitted a proposal to further increase "the maximum slaughter line speed by 25 percent," which was already far too fast and highly dangerous. It has been made evident that the industry will exploit its workers and animals all to boost its profit.
The revelations continued when Tyson Foods, the world's second-largest producer of chicken, beef and pork, cooperated with the Department of Justice to avoid scrutiny into the company's role in the monopolization of the industry to fix prices of chicken for both consumers and retailers. This news comes at a time when Tyson has already been under fire for exposing its workers to an enormous risk of contracting COVID-19. We can now add competitors and consumers to the ever-growing list of those victimized by the corporate giant. This is further evidence that it's time for our nation's food supply chain to change in a big way.
Tyson Foods former CEO Noel White, replaced by Dean Banks in October, rushed to cooperate under the Department of Justice's antitrust leniency program, stating, "I am proud to lead a company that took appropriate and immediate actions in reporting the wrongdoing we discovered to the Department of Justice." What White failed to mention is that cooperating will afford Tyson protection from public scrutiny and legal fines, at the expense of its competitors.
Unethical business practices seem to be the norm for Tyson Foods. Due to a lack of proper safety measures and harsh attendance policies, more than 10,000 Tyson plant workers tested positive for the virus, substantially more than any other U.S. meat company. Before the pandemic, working on a meat processing line was one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Now, with the constant threat of COVID-19 looming over these elbow-to-elbow assembly lines, meat processing may be among the most deadly jobs in the world. Workers are not just getting sick from this virus—they're dying.
The pandemic has led to major disruptions in the supply chain. While Tyson has not yet engaged in the mass "depopulation" of animals that other producers resorted to, in a typical week, the company slaughters an estimated 37 million chickens. The poor treatment of the chickens within its supply chain—including breeding birds to grow at such an unnaturally fast rate that they can't even hold up their own bodies—has made Tyson the target of public campaigns urging the company to make meaningful changes.
More than 120 labor, food justice, animal welfare and environmental organizations have banded together to take action against the company. Tyson must take immediate action to protect the safety and well-being of its workers, make improvements to support animal welfare and reduce its harsh impact on the environment.
For too long, the unethical, avaricious practices of the meat industry have been hidden from view. The scandals surrounding Tyson and other major producers are making clear that vulnerable workers, abused animals and a rigged system are the foundation of an unethical and destructive business model.
Tyson had a role in creating the industrialized system, and it must step up its role in fixing it. The meat giant has had one singular focus since its inception: profit. The company's greed has caused it to exploit anyone in its path. Tyson's disregard for human and animal life extends to its workers, animals killed in its plants, consumers and now its competitors. Tyson took ownership for rigging the system using price-fixing. It's time for Tyson to take ownership for exploiting and endangering its more vulnerable victims as well.
Sign the petition urging Tyson to stop neglecting workers, animals and public health.
Sign the petition urging the U.S. chicken meat industry to end the cruel practice of boiling birds alive.
David Coman-Hidy is president of The Humane League, a global nonprofit working to fix our broken food system and end the abuse of animals raised for food.
Food system justice and environmental advocates on Wednesday urged all Democratic presidential hopefuls to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in signing a pledge rejecting campaign cash from food and agribusiness corporations.
The Massachusetts senator, said advocacy group Friends of the Earth, is "leading the way."
BREAKING: Elizabeth Warren has signed our #NoBigAgMoney pledge! 77% of Iowa Democratic caucus goers want candidate… https://t.co/A0VudN01tO— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1579706562.0
"We applaud Sen. Warren for listening to voters that overwhelmingly support candidates rejecting Big Ag's money and influence," said Lisa Archer, food and agriculture director for Friends of the Earth Action. "We urge all presidential candidates to take the No Big Ag Money pledge and prioritize our families, farmers, food chain workers, our planet, and our democracy over Big Ag's profits."
The "No Big Ag Money Pledge" was launched last week. It states (pdf):
I pledge not to take contributions over $200 from large food and agribusiness corporation executives, lobbyists, and PACs and instead prioritize the health of our families, farmers, food chain workers, our planet, and our democracy.
The document lists dozens of companies that fall under that category, including giants Bayer, Caterpillar, Tyson, General Mils, and Sodexo. Rejecting cash from those entities, says the coalition behind the pledge, would show that presidential candidates won't favor the interests of factory farms over those of family farms.
If the opinion of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa serve as a guide, candidates would be wise to sign on to the plege.
According to a poll (pdf) out earlier this month — commissioned to the Friends of the Earth Action and conducted by Lake Research Partners — 77 percent of these likely caucus-goers agree that presidential candidates should reject campaign contributions from Big Ag. Sixty-four percent also said they support breaking up the biggest food and agriculture corporations — a proposal backed by Warren and Democratic primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Make no mistake, Big Ag wields significant power. As Friends of the Earth outlined in a statement last week,
Currently in the United States, four corporations (many of them foreign owned) control 84 percent of the market for beef, 70 percent of the market for soy, 66 percent of the market for hogs, 80 percent of the market for corn, 59 percent of the market for poultry, 84 percent of the market for pesticides, and 60 percent of the market for seeds.
The food and family farms groups say that campaigns not accepting contributions from these interests would be a step towards neutering their political influence.
"It would be great to see all the candidates join Elizabeth Warren in taking the No Big Ag Money Pledge," said Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of Citizens Regeneration Lobby. "It's time to stop agribusiness monopolies from using campaign cash and lobbying dollars to put a stranglehold on federal food and farm policy."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
This month, two of the nation's largest chicken companies, Tyson and Perdue, have together pulled more than 120,000 pounds of nugget products from shelves and freezers.
Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 36,420 pounds of chicken nugget products because they may be contaminated with rubber, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Tuesday.
Customers complained after they found pieces of "soft, blue rubber" inside, the Associated Press reported. Apparently, the rubber came from a piece of equipment that got pinched and made its way into the nugget blend, a Tyson representative explained to the AP, adding that the company has placed measures to prevent another such snafu.
Tyson Foods is recalling more than 36,000 pounds of chicken nuggets because they may be contaminated with rubber.… https://t.co/TFyz6yLq2H— AJ+ (@AJ+)1548861832.0
Specifically, Tyson's recall applies to 5-pound packages of white meat panko chicken nuggets produced on Nov. 26, 2018, the notice said. They have a "BEST IF USED BY" date of Nov. 26, 2019 and a case code of 3308SDL03 and bear establishment number "P-13556" inside the USDA mark of inspection. These plastic-wrapped packs were shipped to retail locations nationwide.
Tyson's recall came not long after Perdue Foods issued two back-to-back recalls of its own chicken nugget products earlier this month.
Perdue recalled 16,011 pounds of "Fun Shapes Chicken Breast Nuggets" due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, the USDA announced Monday. The dinosaur-shaped products contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label.
A week before that, Perdue also recalled 68,244 pounds of its "Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets" due to possible contamination with pieces of wood.
All together, Tyson's potentially rubber-filled nuggets (36,420 pounds), plus Perdue's undeclared-allergen nuggets (16,011 pounds) and its potentially wood-filled nuggets (68,244 pounds) makes a combined total of 120,675 pounds of recalled chicken products.
Let's do some math. Say the average weight of a broiler chicken is 6 pounds before slaughter. Take away the parts of the chicken we don't eat, plus breading and whatever else is used in nugget mix—oh and wood and rubber scraps—my back-of-the napkin calculations say that's roughly 20,112 chickens that were killed for food that will go uneaten. That figure may be wildly inaccurate but these recalls always deal in pounds instead of the number of lives.
It's not even the end of January, folks. Anyone else want to extend Veganuary for another month?
By Shana Gallagher
What comes to mind when you think of Tyson Foods? A chicken nugget? A big red logo?
How about the largest toxic dead zone in U.S. history? It turns out the meat industry—and corporate giants like Tyson Foods—are directly linked to this environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and many others.
Industrial-scale agriculture to support America's livestock is the number one source of water pollution in the country. But while industrial agriculture to feed animals raised for meat is currently resource-intensive and ecologically destructive, it doesn't have to be. Solutions exist which, if adopted, would allow the meat industry and agricultural corporations that sustain it to reduce their impact on water and the planet.
That's why Mighty Earth has launched the Clean It Up, Tyson campaign in order to hold this industry accountable to our communities and the environment. Corporations can and should respect the health and well-being of their customers, and the landscapes that allow them to profit. Considering America's current political climate, and the increasing severity of environmental problems across the globe, collective action and corporate-targeted campaigns like this one have never been more urgent.
Soil erosion and agricultural run-off is currently America's top source of water pollution.Mighty Earth
In a country with five times as many livestock animals as humans, it takes a lot of land to grow feed for the meat that ends up on consumers' plates. More than a third of America's agricultural land is dedicated towards the production of corn and soy, but humans consume less than 10 percent of this, according to Mighty Earth's campaign report. The vast majority is consumed by livestock.
What many people don't realize is that this livestock feed production is controlled by a very small number of large and powerful corporations, making huge upstream profits, but creating massive downstream pollution. These companies—ADM, Bunge, Cargill (often referred to as the ABCs)—don't have much of a public reputation, as they don't sell directly to individual consumers. Under our current regulatory system, they're also not responsible for their run-off or excess fertilizer use, both of which are classified as "non-point source" pollution. In other words, soil erosion and run-off from enormous swaths of America's crop fields are washing into the waterways, and taxpayers shoulder the burden. These two factors mean that industrial agriculture companies operate with impunity while polluting the land, rivers and oceans.
How animal feed moves through the meat supply chainMighty Earth
A recent report by Environmental Working Group found that more than 200 million Americans—more than half of the people in our country—are exposed to contaminated drinking water due to fertilizer pollution. The estimated clean water costs to taxpayers are more than $2 billion per year. The nitrate and phosphorous in fertilizer that leaches into our drinking water are associated with various types of cancers, birth defects and other health problems. This burden disproportionately falls on rural communities, whose water treatment systems were not built to deal with the levels of chemicals they're now facing.
"The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) ordered Pretty Prairie, Kansas, to build a new water treatment plant last year to lower nitrate levels that could cost $2.4 million—well over $3,000 for every person in town," EWG reported. "Eighty-five percent or more of the communities with elevated levels of nitrate have no treatment systems in place to remove the contaminant."
Another alarming characteristic of industrial agriculture is that because it's so intensive, fields are quickly exhausted, and the industry must continuously expand to new areas. For this reason, the American prairie and grassland ecosystems are being altered faster than the Amazon rainforest.
A recent University of Wisconsin study estimated that this loss of natural grassland "could have emitted as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as 34 coal-fired power plants operating for one year—the equivalent of 28 million more cars on the road," noted Mighty Earth. These unique landscapes are among the most threatened in the world, and are irreversibly damaged after conversion into crop fields, often to grow corn and soy. At a time in our country when public lands are being attacked from many angles, industrial-scale agriculture to support the meat industry is the biggest challenge these ecosystems face.
Polluted run-off from manure and chemical fertilizer causes toxic algae outbreaks in lakes and rivers across the country, contaminating drinking water, killing marine life and endangering public health.Mighty Earth
Luckily, there are a number of simple, cheap and effective ways in which the meat industry could adopt sustainability measures into supply chains to and protect clean water. For example, currently less than 30 percent of fertilizer applied to massive industrial-scale crop fields is actually absorbed by the plants. Instead, most of this washes off as fertilizer pollution and contaminates waterways.
This is what has caused the largest dead zone in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico. It is currently more than 8,000 square miles, where no marine life can survive due to toxic fertilizer pollution. By using more precise application methods, farmers could save money on fertilizer, and less of it would contaminate the water. Additionally, techniques like using cover crops, diversifying crops beyond corn and soy, and limiting tillage are proven ways to reduce soil erosion.
A farmer sprays liquid urea ammonium nitrate fertilizer to pre-emergent crops. P177 / Flickr
A few months ago, Mighty Earth conducted a comprehensive study into which areas of America are experiencing the worst water contamination from fertilizer pollution (Figure 1), and the most dramatic land conversion into livestock feed crop fields (Figure 2). This groundbreaking research also identified the agricultural and meat industry corporations most present in these areas. The clear culprit driving these destructive agricultural impacts was identified: Tyson Foods.
The country's largest meat company, the second largest globally and the pioneer of the industrial meat system, Tyson Foods produces one in every five pounds of meat: more than 20 percent of all chicken, beef and pork. They are therefore uniquely placed to drive solutions, incentivize their suppliers to farm more responsibly, and reduce the catastrophic effects that industrial-scale agriculture has on the environment and public health.
Figure 1. Nitrate levels by watershed, 2016 overlaid with Tyson and top feed supplier facilitiesMighty Earth
Figure 2: Grassland conversion by county, 2016 overlaid with Tyson and top feed supplier facilitiesMighty Earth
"Recent commitments from a growing number of food companies like Kellogg's, General Mills, Walmart, PepsiCo, and even Tyson's competitor, Smithfield, are showing the way forward," reported Mighty Earth. "These companies have committed to improve fertilizer and soil-health practices in their U.S. crop supply chains and have launched programs and practices that Tyson and other meat producers can adopt to drive improvements in their supply chains."
Tyson Foods has the power to make these changes too, and therefore to change the entire meat industry for the better—and we have the power to ask them to do it.
Tyson's prior commitments to sustainability are admirable, but don't go far enough. With the demand for meat rising, and the threats to our environment increasing, the stakes could not be higher.
This issue affects all of us. As far back as 2013, the majority of American waterways were contaminated by fertilizer pollution, according to the EPA. That's why Mighty Earth is organizing in communities across the country to ask Tyson to protect our water and our environment. By signing the petition or making a call to Tyson's corporate headquarters (you can use our calling script for pointers), you can add your voice to the rising chorus calling for cleaner meat. Tyson Foods must lead the way to a more sustainable food system and protect the one planet we have.
Shana Gallagher is one of seven organizers around the U.S. launching Mighty Earth's #CleanItUpTyson campaign.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
Tyson Foods, the nation's largest chicken producer, has taken "full responsibility" for accidentally releasing an acidic chemical used in chicken feed into the city of Monett, Missouri's wastewater treatment system that resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 fish.
The poultry giant unit pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court in Springfield, Missouri on two criminal charges of violating the Clean Water Act that stemmed from discharges at its slaughter and processing facility in Monett, Missouri, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
The Arkansas-based company issued a statement taking responsibility of the 2014 incident. "We deeply regret the mistake that was made and have taken corrective action to make sure it doesn't happen again. We're committed to doing better in all areas of our business, especially when it comes to protecting the environment."
According to the DOJ, one of the ingredients Tyson used in its chicken feed is a liquid food supplement called Alimet, which has a pH level of less than one. A tank that stored the chemical leaked and flowed into a containment area. The company then hired a contractor to remove the substance and take it to the Monett plant. However, the in-house treatment system was not designed to treat the substance. From there, the acidic chemical released into Monett's municipal waste water treatment plant, and killed bacteria used to reduce ammonia in discharges from the treatment plant into a nearby creek, resulting in the death of approximately 108,000 fish.
Tyson will have to pay a $2 million criminal fine and serve two years of probation, the DOJ said. The company must also pay $500,000 to maintain and restore waters in the Monett area, with a focus on Clear Creek and the adjoining waterways.
Prosecutors said that Tyson will also have to implement environmental compliance programs including: hiring an independent, third-party auditor to examine all Tyson poultry facilities throughout the country to assess their compliance with the Clean Water Act and hazardous waste laws; conducting specialized environmental training at its poultry processing plants, hatcheries, feed mills, rendering plants, and waste water treatment plants; and implementing improved policies and procedures to address the circumstances that gave rise to these violations.
"Tyson's admitted criminal conduct caused significant environmental damage, including a large-scale fish kill," Western District of Missouri Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Larson said in written statement. "Today's plea agreement not only holds Tyson accountable for its actions in Missouri, but requires the company to take steps to insure compliance with the Clean Water Act at its poultry facilities throughout the United States."