The United States’ meat packing industry is pushing back on proposed new rules that would help to reduce water pollution from slaughterhouse effluent.
According to Bloomberg Law, owners of meat and poultry slaughterhouses are dismayed that the suggested changes were discussed without their knowledge, and the standards set to be introduced would be costly and would have to be met within a short timeframe.
The Environmental Protection Agency, following data from the Environmental Integrity Project, has called for a further reduction in the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution produced during animal slaughter in its Clean Water Act.
The EPA has said that when entering U.S. waterways, these chemicals contribute to the creation of toxic algal blooms, pollute drinking water, suffocate fish, and lead to excessive nutrients in water supplies.
It aims to reduce pollution by 100 million pounds every year, but the rules may only apply to around 850 of the 5,000 meat and poultry producers in the United States.
The meat packing industry is concerned about the costs involved to achieve this through “the best technology available,” which will be burdensome for smaller producers. Ethan Ware, who represents food industry clients, said the EPA and environmental groups have been blindsided by the proposals.
“We did not see the proposed rule until just in the last 60 days,” Ware said, per Bloomberg Law. “You’re asking the industry to substantially comment on something EPA and environmental groups have been working on for a year.”
Among the most egregious polluters found by the Environmental Integrity Project was Tyson Fresh Meats, which was found to have released around 3,084 pounds of nitrogen per day into the Missouri River.
With the release of effluent being such a concern for environmental reasons, it’s clear why the EPA is trying to bring some level of control to the situation. However, meat packers should be involved in the process, or else the industry could be alienated and thus less keen to implement changes that would be beneficial to the planet.
Pollution from slaughterhouses is perhaps one of the overlooked factors when it comes to the environmental damage caused by food production.
While the planet-warming methane produced by cattle and agricultural pesticides that kill pollinators are the most well-known problems, the harmful chemicals produced during slaughter and their impact on water quality might not be common knowledge.
While the transition may be challenging, the urgent need to curtail environmental damage and protect public health must be pivotal in guiding these regulations. Corporations must prioritize long-term environmental benefits over short-term cost concerns, and consumers should ensure they are holding corporations accountable.
But it’s yet another reason why eating more plant-based foods can help the environment. Less pressure on the meat industry to supply means fewer animals will need to be bred and killed for food, and that would lead to a reduction in associated pollution created in the process.
According to the University of Colorado Boulder, which promoted a “Meatless Mondays” campaign in 2021, cutting meat from your diet one day a week is equivalent to cutting the pollution produced while driving a dirty-fuel-powered car for 348 miles.
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