2018 Sustainability Report

Nutrient Management

Company commitment to more sustainable production on 2 million acres of corn.

Increase Sustainable Land Stewardship Practices

While Tyson doesn’t own grain farms, we do buy corn and soybean meal to feed our poultry, as do the independent farmers and ranchers who sell us cattle and pigs. In fact, Tyson is the largest purchaser of feed corn in the industry.

Over the past 50 years, the U.S. poultry industry has reduced the amount of grain required to produce a pound of chicken by half. Meanwhile, cattle farmers have learned to raise grain-finished beef cattle on 46 percent fewer acres of harvested corn grain, and pig farmers are using 75.9 percent less land and 25.1 percent less water per pound of pork produced. All of this progress means less land is now used to grow food for animals, as well as less water, GHG emissions and risk of nutrient runoff.

Yet, growing grain remains a resource-intensive activity, and there is still more work to be done. Since grain production is part of our supply chain and contributes to our overall carbon footprint, we’re taking a major step to lessen its environmental impact. 

Tyson Foods has committed to support improved environmental practices on 2 million acres of row crop corn by the end of 2020. This is the largest-ever land stewardship commitment by a U.S. protein company and is expected to lower the GHG emissions generated by our supply chain. It represents enough corn to feed all of Tyson Foods’ annual broiler chicken production in the U.S., as well as some of the pigs and cattle the company buys from independent farmers and ranchers.

As farmers implement increasingly efficient land and nutrient management practices, the effects can be felt throughout the supply chain. Specifically, through optimized nutrient management, there will be less demand for fertilizer, resulting in less energy used to produce the fertilizer. 

Although we own the chickens in our poultry business, the poultry litter (manure) is owned and managed by contract poultry farmers. We encourage the farmers to use sustainable nutrient management practices and we tell them about the potential agricultural benefits of responsible litter management. The Tyson Supplier Code of Conduct requires them to maintain a dedication to protection of the environment and a commitment to sustainable business practices.

Through various nonprofit partnerships, we’ve helped to move approximately 1.2 million tons of nutrient litter out of the Illinois River Watershed – which covers parts of eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas – since 2005 (this figure includes litter from other brands). The litter is redistributed to areas with less density of animal nutrients available.

Learn more about our commitment to support improved environmental practices on 2 million acres of row crop corn by the end of 2020.

Sustainably Feeding the World, Together

Helping Grain Farmers Do More

Impacting 2 million acres requires broad support. Tyson sponsored a Nutrient Management Summit in 2018 that brought together more than 30 leaders of the corn supply chain, including professors from three major universities, representatives of the grain and animal agriculture commodity groups, seed and fertilizer dealers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Nature Conservancy.

Based on insights from the gathering, we launched two projects in early FY2019 in partnership with EDF. The first project involves two pilots expected to scale sustainable agriculture practices on 500,000 acres of corn to reduce GHG emissions, improve water quality and maximize farmer profitability. This effort will also help us meet our 2020 land stewardship goal.

The pilots will leverage the power of cloud-based agricultural technologies that collect and analyze information about agricultural production practices while protecting data privacy. The first pilot will equip a network of agronomists with MyFarms, a farm management software program, to provide farmers with insights about the value of conservation practices. This pilot will incentivize agronomists to work with farmers to adopt more sustainable practices. 

The other pilot, in partnership with Farmers Business Network (FBN), will incentivize farmers directly. FBN will share data with its network of 7,600 farmers who span nearly 30 million acres, as well as offering discounts and technical and agronomic assistance. Each pilot will run for three years, and we will review progress annually. 

A second EDF project is focused on the Chesapeake area where Tyson has more than 1,200 team members and approximately 100 poultry producers who depend upon good water quality in and around this watershed. To further our land stewardship efforts, EDF will advise Tyson as we conduct a pilot project on the Delmarva Peninsula.

This pilot will utilize Tyson’s current FarmCheck® animal welfare audit program to develop a FarmCheck Plus program that includes environmental aspects of on-farm practices. FarmCheck Plus will be used as a continuous improvement model for on-farm poultry litter and mortality management practices. Specifically, we will develop an audit protocol and conduct internal audits to review compliance at the farms of contract producers. We also will use Professional Animal Audit Certification Organization (PAACO) service to conduct third-party audits. In addition, we will develop a baseline assessment to further understand how independent poultry producers on the Delmarva Peninsula utilize litter.

red barn in corn field
If the largest U.S. food company can prove the viability of farming practices that are good for the planet and for profits, it would be a game changer.