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Update: Poultry Giants Making Themselves Billionaires By Poisoning Us

November 15, 2009

Testimony in the ongoing trial in Oklahoma’s lawsuit against Tyson, Cargill and other major poultry producers has exposed that the industry knew for years that the practice of overuse of litter for fertilizer could wreak havoc on area waterways but failed to take steps recommended by its own experts.

The former President of the poultry company George’s Inc. testified that the industry knew since the late 1990’s that over application of litter could cause runoff problems. But he acknowledged that nothing was done until his 2005 memo advising company growers to truck litter out of areas where birds are raised. He claimed the litter problem is now “well on the way to a solution,” despite the already massive pollution from years of neglect.

In similar testimony, a Cargill executive admitted that the company’s 2002 pilot program to haul waste away from sensitive areas was abandoned after two years because it wasn’t turning a profit. He also acknowledged that the company never followed up to insure that growers were heeding warnings in a company handbook about manure management.

Praising the state’s lawsuit against Big Chicken earlier this year, environmental lawyer and Waterkeeper Alliance founder Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stated that poultry companies are “making themselves billionaires by poisoning the rest of us.” Speaking in Oklahoma, he noted the companies profit by “dumping their crap into the Illinois River and the other rivers of the state.” One expert in the trial testified that since poultry pollution has escalated, 30,000 fewer people are recreating in Oklahoma’s Illinois River waterways.

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