Today, Pilgrim’s Pride – second-largest chicken producer in the world – rejected a shareholder resolution (Proposal 6) calling on the company to curb water pollution from its operations and supply chain. The company’s refusal to clean up comes even as it faces a citizens’ suit from Environment America and the local Sierra Club chapter for dumping toxic wastewater into Florida’s Suwannee River. In response, Environment America’s clean water program director John Rumpler issued the following statement:
Instead of cleaning its coop, today Pilgrim’s has decided to chicken out on its responsibility to stop fouling America’s waterways.
Pilgrim’s Pride operations and supply chain, which processes roughly 37 million birds per week, is responsible for significant water pollution in several states, including Texas, Florida, and Virginia. In addition to millions of pounds of manure and runoff from feed production, the company’s own processing plants dump pollution directly into our rivers and streams. In 2014 alone, Pilgrim’s Pride facilities dumped more than half a million pounds of toxic pollutants into U.S. waterways, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory.
In Florida alone, the company has been dumping pollution into the Suwannee River from its poultry processing plant in Live Oak, Florida. As alleged in our citizens’ suit under the Clean Water Act, this one facility has committed 1,377 days of Clean Water Act violations since 2012, all from discharging wastewater into the river that exceeds pollution standards by as much as triple the legal limits.
One of the world’s largest meat companies dumping pollution into our rivers, and now they have officially rejected a request by investors to adopt even a bare-bones plan to address this problem. It’s hard to see how can Pilgrim’s take pride in that.
Pilgrim’s Pride is owned by the Brazil-based meat conglomerate JBS, which controls a majority of shares voted today on Proposal 6. The water pollution footprint of Pilgrims Pride and JBS combined included more than 45 million tons of manure (in 2015) and 37 million pounds of toxic discharges to waterways (from 2010-2014).