The Economic and Water Impacts of the EPA’s “Slaughterhouse” Rule

Apr 22, 2024 10:00 AM ET

by Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a decision to make. Right now the agency is considering new water pollution standards for slaughterhouses and rendering facilities in response to lawsuits from environmental organizations. These standards are urgently needed to correct a long-standing regulatory failure to control one of the nation’s largest industrial sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Despite its stated mission to safeguard human health and the environment, EPA’s current regulations do not address phosphorus discharges, and the agency has neglected to update water pollution standards for other harmful pollutants from this industry for nearly twenty years, as required by the Clean Water Act.

This is no accident. Large industrial animal agriculture companies have invested millions of dollars in lobbying to ensure the status quo, which in turn, protects their growing profits. This includes U.S. domestic sales, which were estimated at $267 billion in 2021, and a projected goldmine of global industrial meat production associated with expansions of beef, pork, and chicken exports since 2010. It is reported that the four largest meat processing conglomerates operating in the U.S., which control approximately 55 percent to 85 percent of the market for pork, beef, and poultry, have collectively increased their gross profits by 120 percent and net income by 500 percent since 2019.

As global meat production continues to rise to meet a projected doubling of meat-based protein consumption by 2050, corporate owners of these large facilities are not incentivized to modernize their systems, treat their waste, and control their discharges that typically contains nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as blood, fat, oil and grease, fecal bacteria, disease-causing pathogens, detergents, and heavy metals. Without regulatory scrutiny and guardrails, “Big Agriculture” will persist in operating without consequences, reaping all the profits while communities drown in its toxic brew of pollution.

Read Marc's complete article here -