Stop Poisoning Waterways With Factory Farm Waste

Target: Donnie King, CEO, Tyson Foods

Goal: Properly dispose of all chicken manure and save local waterways from farming pollution.

Our nation’s lakes, rivers, oceans, and other waterways are at a serious risk, and not just because of pollution from manufacturing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined 40% or more of rivers and streams are affected by agricultural runoff. The EPA found that a staggering 500 million tons of manure come from the country’s livestock every year, much of which is concentrated in small areas where animal live in confined conditions. The result is contamination of waterways from runoff and seepage into groundwater.

This waste disrupts nutrient and chemical balances in water sources by adding natural contaminants from manure, as well as chemical fertilizers and pesticides ingested by farm animals. Nitrogen and phosphorus leeched into water create algae blooms which are lethal to fish and can cause diseases in babies who may consume the same water. The manmade chemicals in feed eaten by animals such as chickens also can be devastating to marine life. Chickens are a huge culprit, numbering around 400 million in the U.S. alone. The good news is their waste can be composted with additives to make it a viable fertilizer, but this requires time and money many chicken farms are not willing to invest.

Tyson is complicit in this problem and does not do everything in its power to manage animal waste at contracted farms that raise the company’s poultry. Tyson’s sustainability statement vaguely addresses the issue by claiming to “encourage farmers to use sustainable nutrient management practices” and “educate them about the potential agricultural benefits of responsible litter (manure) management.” In addition to not showing any true accountability, Tyson goes on to remind consumers they own the chickens but do not own (i.e. ultimately manage) the farms and their practices.

Sign the petition below to push Tyson Foods towards a more transparent and comprehensive system for managing chicken manure in order to protect waterways surrounding their farms.


Dear CEO King,

Tyson Foods is an impressive company that has made quite a name for itself on the international stage. The volume you produce, especially chicken products, has been difficult to match by your competitors. With this, of course, comes great responsibility to ensure the many farms you manage are doing everything in Tyson’s power to deal with chicken manure, or litter, and keep it from becoming poisonous runoff or leeching into groundwater.

The “Land Stewardship” page of your website mentions vague management practices Tyson shares with your partner farms and education on the benefits of responsible litter management. Does this necessarily mean these farms put into practice the methods you have worked so hard to research and share with them? While the farmers are independent contractors working to maintain chickens owned by you, they should be held accountable for farming practices Tyson claims to promote as a company. Clarifying what “sustainable business practices” look like in the “Tyson Foods Supplier Code of Conduct” is important to many of your consumers.

It is great to read on the same webpage about efforts made to move chicken litter out of the Illinois River Watershed. However, Tyson’s partnering farms span well beyond this area and can negatively affect waterways across the country. What practices have you found effective here, and how can they be used as a standard way of business for the Tyson company?

We urge you to develop an effective system for chicken manure management and hold independent contractor farms accountable for following these plans in order to protect waterways affected by livestock farming.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Matthew T. Rader

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