Consumers Tell Tyson Foods to Keep Its Sustainability Promise

May 19, 2022 | 4:14 pm
photo showing two packaged whole chickens with Tyson branding on a store shelfUCS
Karen Perry Stillerman
Sr. Strategist and Sr. Analyst, Food & Environment Program

My colleagues and I here at the Union of Concerned Scientists were surprised when we saw the size of the “feed footprint” attributable to meat and poultry giant Tyson Foods. The term refers to the amount of farmland used to grow feed grains for the vast numbers of chickens, pigs, and cattle Tyson slaughters and processes every year. According to our recent analysis, that acreage in 2020 was nearly twice the size of the state of New Jersey. But what was even more surprising was just how little Tyson was doing to make all that farmland sustainable for the future.

In 2018, Tyson talked a good game about farmland sustainability, pledging in its annual sustainability report to improve environmental practices on 2 million farm acres by 2020. Yet by June 2021, it had enrolled just 408,000 acres—less than a quarter of that commitment—into a pilot program and pushed the larger goal off to 2025.

That’s corporate greenwashing, and we asked our supporters to join us in calling it out in an open letter to Tyson’s chief sustainability officer. Nearly 11,000 of you responded. See the letter below, as published on page 3C of Tyson’s hometown newspaper, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, last Sunday.

The list of signers was a little too long for a newspaper ad, but you can find that here.

Oh, and Tyson is expected to publish its next annual sustainability report in the coming weeks. We’ll be watching for it, and we’ll let you know what it says.