Healthier Environment

Why is the environment important to us? Simple – it’s where our food comes from.

At Tyson Foods, we’re committed to respecting and conserving the environment and natural resources we depend on to run our business. This is essential to doing business in a sustainable way, and it’s one of our Core Values – “to serve as stewards of the animals, land, and environment entrusted to us.”

Our commitment to respecting and conserving the environment is broad. To get there, we focus on the following interrelated commitments each day:

  • Alignment of our leadership from the executive team to every operating location to recognize the importance of environmental protection as we work
  • Protecting the environment through pollution prevention and continuous improvement
  • Compliance with environmental laws, regulations, and other requirements
  • Setting higher standards for ourselves where challenges are found
  • Finding opportunities, using best practices, and measuring and benchmarking our performance against our goals and peers to reduce environmental impacts
  • Open communication with our team members, contractors, and suppliers to validate they’re awareness of their environmental responsibilities at our locations
  • Engaging community leaders, regulators, and non-government organizations on topics about the environment and our performance

As part of our commitment to the environment, we have an Environmental Management System (EMS) in place at each of our facilities in the United States. Our EMS is designed to:


Minimize the environmental footprint of our operations in the communities where we work and live


Support achievement of our environmental sustainability goals and ensure compliance with laws


Help us achieve and continually improve environmental compliance and performance

Modeled after the International Organization for Standardization 14001 (ISO-14001), we implemented an Environmental Management System (EMS) in phases from 2004 to 2009. We continually review and revise the components of our EMS as we identify opportunities to drive company-wide environmental improvement.

Supported by our Executive Leadership Team, our EMS presents a documented framework of policies and procedures we follow to support our core value of environmental stewardship.

We believe protecting the environment and conserving natural resources is essential for maintaining clean air, water and land in our communities and the world. We serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to us and we set goals to achieve the highest level of environmental excellence in all company operations.

We rely on our EMS to follow established practices:

  • Identifying and communicating environmental requirements and potential concerns to team members and leadership
  • Assigning and scheduling completion of environmental tasks
  • Creating policies and procedures
  • Retaining records
  • Environmental education and training
  • Planning for future activities and change
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Correcting issues and preventing recurrence
  • Reviewing our performance and setting improvement goals

Our EMS follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle for environmental activities in order to continually improve our environmental performance and practices.

  • 12 Plants Recognized for Emergency Management Systems and Continuous Environmental Improvement

  • In January 2016, we were again recognized by the North American Meat Institute for continuous environmental improvement for developing and implementing Environmental Management Systems at our plants. Eleven of our beef and pork facilities received a Tier 3 recognition and one poultry facility received a Tier 2 recognition. The program begins with Tier 1 as a basic environmental commitment and advances to Tier 4 which recognizes an ISO 14001 management system. Learn more about the awards program.

Small Gestures Make Big Impact on Earth Day

As a part of our commitment to environmental stewardship, team members throughout our company celebrated Earth Day by coming up with fun and innovative ways to engage in conservation and give back to Mother Nature. A few of those stories are below.

Pollinator Partnership Team

In collaboration with the Pollinator Partnership, team members planted five plots at our World Headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, with a variety of plant species to serve as a refueling station for monarch butterflies as they migrate. The Pollinator Partnership works exclusively to save pollinators such as bees, bats and butterflies that support ecosystems and are vitally important to agriculture.

Nearly 50 of our locations participated in Earth Day activities.

  • Team members at our Zeeland, Michigan, plant volunteered to remove invasive plant species at local parks. The plant also encourages recycling throughout the year. From January 2016 through March 2016, Zeeland team members recycled an average of 3,500 pounds of material each month from their homes. The plant also recycled more than 1.3 million pounds of cardboard, plastic and paper as well as 139,000 pounds of metal and more than 12,000 pounds of wood during the three-month period.
  • Arkansas Forestry Commission
  • The Arkansas Forestry Commission donated 400 Willow Oak trees to our North Little Rock, Arkansas, plant, which allowed each team member between two and three trees to plant at the location of their choice.
  • Our New Holland, Pennsylvania, complex celebrated Earth Day the entire week by distributing information covering a variety of environmental topics. Eleven team members were randomly selected to receive environmentally friendly prizes such as energy-saving light bulbs, plants, “green” cleaning products and bird feeders.
  • Team members from our Berryville and Green Forest, Arkansas, complex presented a water quality and reuse seminar to 5th graders from the Berryville School District. Another group from Berryville worked with the Kings River Watershed Partnership to clean a six-mile stretch along the bank of the river in western Carroll County. Team members from our Green Forest Plant also participated in a street clean-up.


Every day, we use energy for powering processing equipment; cooking, chilling, and freezing product; transporting product to distribution centers and customers; and more.

The main types of energy we use in our operations include electricity, fossil fuels, and biogas. Our normalized energy use increased by five-percent from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2016.

Energy Use* FY2014 FY2015 FY2016
Total Energy Use
All Sources (million mmBtu)
37.69 37.75 38.50
Energy Use Intensity
Btu used to create a pound of finished product
1,158 1,149 1,210
(million MWh)
3.74 3.85 3.85
Includes natural gas, fuel oil, propane, biogas and landfill gas (million mmBtu)
24.96 24.67 25.41
Renewable Energy
Includes biogas and landfill gas (mmBtu)
572,930 625,968 828,383
% Renewable Energy
Of total energy used
1.52 1.66 2.15

*This footprint includes our energy use from our U.S.-based beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and prepared foods processing operations. Information from our auxiliary support locations (e.g., feed mills and hatcheries) and transportation operations are not included in this footprint. Information from our U.S.-based Cobb-Vantress, Inc., and The Pork Group, Inc., subsidiaries is not included in this footprint. Additionally, this footprint does not include Chicago, IL (Bruss), Clearfield, UT; Green Bay, WI; Jacksonville, FL (Bruss), Rancho Cucamonga, CA; San Diego, CA; or Warren, MI. FY15 data is based on a 53-week fiscal year; and FY14 and FY16 are based on a 52-week fiscal year.

Energy and Water Management at Obion County, Tennessee

Our Obion County poultry complex launched a pilot project in February 2014 to provide continuous information and alerts about energy and water use related to production targets and goals. When the facility had real-time insight into how energy and water were being used, they were quickly able to take corrective action in situations where energy or water was being used inefficiently. Since the start of this project, the facility has achieved more than a 20-percent reduction in energy use and a 15-percent reduction in water use.

  • Saved enough to power 5,610 homes.

  • The energy-efficiency improvement at Obion County is equivalent to the amount of power required for more than 5,600 Tennessee residential customers for one year, according to information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

  • Saved 1.16 billion bottles of water.

  • Our water-efficiency improvement at Obion County is equivalent to providing more than 1.16 billion 16.9-ounce bottles of water or supply 1,052 families of four with water for one year, according to information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense® Partnership Program.

Reducing Energy Use at Our Fresh Meats Operations

Across our Fresh Meats operations, several initiatives were completed in Fiscal 2016 that reduced our overall energy consumption and associated carbon emissions.

In our Dakota City, Nebraska, and Perry, Iowa, facilities, we replaced traditional boiler burners with high-efficiency models that improved fuel-efficiency by two to three percent. That change will save more than $17,000 and 6,600 mmBtu per year. Installation of these more efficient boiler burners is already underway at our Amarillo, Texas, location, and a fourth location is being evaluated. Control systems have also been installed to optimize energy use in the majority of the boilers we operate. The boilers are fine-tuned quarterly to ensure maximum operating efficiency.

We're saving approximately $114,000 and 33,000 mmBtu of natural gas per year by using stack-draft regulators at our Joslin, Illinois, and Dakota City, Nebraska, facilities to capture heat from the boiler exhaust and re-supply it to the boiler, improving fuel efficiency by approximately five percent; evaluation is underway for installation at a third location.

Biogas Production

At six of our production locations, we have covered wastewater treatment lagoons. Covering the lagoons allows us to capture the biogas generated from the lagoons. Biogas is generated by bacteria consuming nutrients in the wastewater, which then produces methane and carbon dioxide gases.

  • We burn 600 million cubic feet of biogas.

  • In a typical year, we burn 600 million cubic feet of biogas in our boilers. This is equivalent to the amount of natural gas used by 7,400 homes annually.

We clean up the biogas by removing some of the sulfur and water, and then use the biogas in the plant boilers (at four of the six plants), allowing us to use less natural gas. This practice takes advantage of a renewable fuel source, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces the amount of natural gas we need to purchase.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Our operations (including plants and trucks) use various fuels, which include biogas, diesel fuel, fuel oil, natural gas, and propane; electricity; and refrigerants. This energy use results in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air pollutants. Our goal is to use renewable fuels like biogas from our wastewater treatment operations, where practical, and to make efficient use of energy to minimize emissions.

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct GHG emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by us. For example, this may include emissions from fossil fuels burned on site and emissions from our owned or leased vehicles.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions resulting from the off-site generation of electricity, heating and cooling, and steam we purchase.
GHG Emissions* FY2015 FY2016
Total GHG Emissions (Scope 1 and Scope 2)
Metric Tonnes CO2e
5,498,797 5,771,988
GHG Intensity
Metric Tonnes CO2e generated to produce 1,000 pounds of finished product
0.167 0.181
Direct GHG Emissions – Scope 1
Metric Tonnes CO2e
2,940,496 2,920,188
Indirect GHG Emissions – Scope 2
Metric Tonnes CO2e
2,558,301 2,851,800

*This footprint includes GHG emissions from our U.S.-based beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and prepared foods processing operations, as well as our auxiliary support locations (e.g., feed mills and hatcheries) and transportation operations. Information from The Pork Group, Inc. subsidiary is also included in this footprint. Information from our U.S.-based Cobb-Vantress, Inc. subsidiary is not included in this footprint. Additionally, this footprint does not include Chicago, IL (Bruss), Clearfield, UT; Green Bay, WI; Jacksonville, FL (Bruss), Rancho Cucamonga, CA; San Diego, CA; or Warren, MI. Since auxiliary support locations are included in this footprint but do not have production data associated with them, our intensity may appear higher since there is not production data included that would offset those emissions. Carbon Dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is carbon dioxide plus nitrous oxide and methane multiplied by the respective global warming potentials. FY15 data is based on a 53-week fiscal year and FY16 is based on a 52-week fiscal year.


We continue to focus on increasing our recycling efforts for cardboard, paper, plastic, and wood through partnerships with our waste handlers and ongoing plant surveys and waste stream evaluations to determine where we have opportunities to improve. Our efforts also include maximizing waste compactor loads to minimize hauls, which reduces truck fuel usage and GHG emissions.

In our animal processing operations, we not only harvest the meat for use in operations, but also use the majority of the by-products, such as hides, skins, bones and blood to create salable materials. Virtually nothing is wasted. The newest Meat MythCrusher video, produced by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and American Meat Science Association (AMSA), gives a good description of this process.

Although we do not have waste metrics to report at this time, we are working to put an enterprise-wide system in place that will allow us to better understand our waste footprint and report these metrics in the future. We continue to investigate new recycling avenues for our waste streams as well as to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills across the company. We have also been evaluating opportunities to apply "zero waste" to our operations.

Eliminating Wasted Food

Our goal is simple: eliminate wasted food.

We optimize packaging to keep food fresh through its intended use-by date, and we offer portion controlled options to reduce waste and label guidance on preparation, cooking, storage, sell-by and best-if-used-by dates. We use state-of-the-art food safety techniques that protect shelf-life.

We optimize pallet load for the most efficient weight and cube utilization in a truck, and we use a world-class inventory and distribution system to keep our food safe and fresh.

We’re experts in efficiency and continual improvement. We recycle by-products into other useful things like animal feed, biofuels, and fertilizer. We also repurpose by-products into items such as cosmetics, leather, fertilizer and pharmaceutical ingredients.

We are looking to invest in leading edge technologies with our Tyson New Ventures group as a way to help address food loss across our entire industry.

We also fight both wasted food and hunger by donating 10 million pounds of protein annually to food banks across the country. We partner with nongovernmental organizations to teach people how to choose and prepare inexpensive, nutritious meals and stretch their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars and champion food efforts in many of the communities where we live and work.


Our first priority is to ensure the wholesomeness and safety of our food products, and water is essential to producing safe food. We also understand the important balance between protecting product quality and conserving a natural resource. Success in this area requires a holistic approach to water stewardship, beginning with the responsible use of this resource at our operations.

We recognize water of suitable quality and volume is a finite resource. That's why, in the spring of 2016, we began the installation of new measuring and continuous monitoring equipment at our U.S. plant locations that enable personnel to better manage water use in real-time. Our goal is to reduce the amount of water used to produce each pound of product by 12%, by the end of 2020, using Fiscal 2015 as the baseline year. Our water intensity increased by nearly seven percent as compared to Fiscal 2015 due to a decrease in overall production resulting from various facility renovations and upgrades during the year, combined with enhanced food safety measures.

The majority of water we use in our direct operations is treated and returned to the environment. We also use technology and reclamation systems to conserve water. More information on these efforts can be found here.

  • Food safety and quality is our first priority.

  • We will never reduce water usage in situations where food safety and quality could be compromised.

Our efforts include the following oversight and direct management activities:

Compliance with regulatory discharge permits. Setting internal standards and practices for water stewardship.
Measuring and monitoring water usage and discharge at our operations. Seeking feedback on our efforts from customers, regulators, consumers and non-government organizations.
Growing our understanding of our water footprint for raw-materials. Sharing information regarding our water stewardship efforts inside and outside the company.
Evaluating short-and long-term water supply risk.

Water Use* FY2014 FY2015 FY2016
Total Water Use
Billion Gallons
29.31 30.31 31.36
Water Use Intensity
Gallons used to produce a pound of finished product
0.90 0.92 0.99

*This footprint includes our water use from our U.S.-based beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and prepared foods processing operations. Information from our auxiliary support locations (e.g., feed mills and hatcheries) and transportation operations are not included in this footprint. Information from our U.S.-based Cobb-Vantress, Inc., and The Pork Group, Inc., subsidiaries is not included in this footprint. Additionally, this footprint does not include Chicago, IL (Bruss), Clearfield, UT; Green Bay, WI; Jacksonville, FL (Bruss), Rancho Cucamonga, CA; San Diego, CA; or Warren, MI. FY15 data is based on a 53-week fiscal year; and FY14 and FY16 are based on a 52-week fiscal year.

Wastewater Reuse

At our Pasco, Washington; Holcomb, Kansas; and Madison, Nebraska, Fresh Meats plants, we reused more than two billion gallons of wastewater for crop irrigation. This not only conserves water, but allows the nutrients in the wastewater to be used to grow crops and reduce the need to purchase manufactured commercial fertilizer. More than four million pounds of nutrients were collected and redistributed by beneficial soil irrigation practices through this process.


We continue to be a proud partner and leader in EPA’s SmartWay® program. In fiscal 2016, EPA named us a SmartWay Excellence Semi-Finalist, a selection based on the environmental performance we demonstrated via the SmartWay Partner Tools and the requirement of our carriers to move freight as SmartWay participants.

  • 52 million over-the-road truck miles eliminated

  • Key initiatives, along with the support of our team members and partners, helped us eliminate more than 52 million over-the-road truck miles during the last fiscal year.

In addition to being an active participant of the SmartWay program, we continue to work on reducing our environmental impact and improving our overall sustainability with several initiatives designed to reduce truck miles on our nation’s highways.

  • We continue to find new opportunities to save truck miles by shipping directly to a customer’s dock. By altering order patterns and volumes to allow direct shipping, we saved more than 2.59 million truck miles.
  • By using rail to ship food and other products to our customers, we saved more than 50 million truck miles.

Packaging Sustainability

Our approach to improving the sustainability of our packaging is to leverage the 5 Rs (Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Renew) during design without sacrificing quality or product protection. We focus on increasing the use of recyclable and renewable materials, as well as reducing packaging. We continue to explore opportunities to source renewable packaging materials internally and monitor the industry for new developments in technology.

  • The packaging innovation labs and pilot plants at our Discovery Centers in Springdale, Arkansas, and Downers Grove, Illinois, allow us to be very effective at developing sustainable packaging. The two packaging labs are equipped to enable engineers to conduct extensive testing to optimize final package designs.
  • An example of one of the tools is a compression strength tester, which is used to determine the optimal case strength required to ship a product without incurring damage. The labs are also fully equipped with multiple types of testing and design tools. The packaging machines in our pilot plants enable the team to quickly and accurately scale up concepts and prototypes from initial consumer research to final package specifications.
  • We also leverage suppliers’ specialized testing capabilities to evaluate some of our more unique packaging materials. We partner with third-party suppliers to conduct International Safe Transit Association testing, which helps us develop the ideal packaging structure, guaranteeing quality, integrity and minimal packaging.
  • Our internal logistics CO2 /fuel analysis tool helps us quantify the impact associated with shipping finished goods. We use the recommended packaging metrics and definitions made available by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Global Packaging Project. This allows us to align with the packaging industry’s standards for terms, metrics, and packaging sustainability reporting.
  • 8.3 million pounds of fiber saved

  • More than eight million pounds of fiber was reduced from corrugated boxes and paperboard cartons.*

Audits Result in Fiscal 2016 Improvements

We partner with our packaging suppliers to investigate new opportunities to make our packaging more sustainable. Our strategic packaging suppliers conduct quarterly audits at our production locations to identify potential areas for improvement.

We eliminated nearly 500,000 pounds* of plastic from flexible films and bags.

Our corrugated boxes are produced from 100-percent renewable material, contain 30-percent post-consumer recyclable packaging, and are Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) program certified.

*All packaging reductions highlighted above occurred at varying times during FY16 and total reductions and savings noted assume current product volumes.

Compliance Metrics

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016
Wastewater Permit Exceedances 134 117 68
Notices of Violation (NOV) 40 29 19
Penalties Per Fiscal Year
Details on penalties incurred that were over $5,000 are provided in the table below.
$354,207 $403,809 $92,455
Supplemental Environmental Project Amount Per Fiscal Year $19,284 $220,000 $—
Superfund Settlements $— $— $17,500
Total Reportable Chemical Releases 21 11 5

These statistics are representative of all U.S.-based facilities, excluding Cobb-Vantress, Inc. FY14 does not include Hillshire Brands operations.

Details on Penalties Incurred over $5,000
Fiscal Year Location Penalty Description
2016 Dakota City, Neb. $7,500 We agreed to a Consent Decree issued by the State of Nebraska regarding excess air emissions associated with our Clean Air Act (CAA) permit when we experienced a burner mechanical failure that required us to flare biogas instead of using it as a renewable fuel.
2016 Rome, Ga. $3,000 We agreed to a penalty for not having a Clean Air Act permit for the plant. In addition to the penalty, $12,036.85 was paid in back CAA permit fees.
2016 Carthage, Miss. $65,000 We signed an Agreed Order under the Clean Water Act issued by the State of Mississippi for a wastewater discharge from a leak in a lagoon.
2016 Iva Lee, Ala. $10,000 We agreed to a Clean Air Act Consent Order issued by the State of Alabama regarding a malfunction of air pollution control equipment.
2016 Ward Transformer Superfund Site $10,000 We agreed to a cash-out settlement to resolve potential liability for a CERLCA site.
2016 U.S. Scrap Superfund Site $7,500 We agreed to a cash-out settlement to resolve potential liability for a CERCLA site.

These statistics are representative of all U.S.-based facilities, excluding Cobb-Vantress, Inc.