Processing Magazine

Arkansas poultry farmers say lawsuit over chicken waste could doom industry

July 22, 2005

Poultry farmers in Arkansas fear that the region’s $2 billion chicken industry could be facing its toughest challenge ever as a lawsuit brought by Oklahoma attorney general Drew Edmondson threatens the future of this industry. The lawsuit brought against 14 poultry companies — including three run by Tyson Foods — accuses them of tainting Oklahoma waters with the waste from millions of chickens and turkeys, the Associated Press reports. Edmondson contends that phosphorous from poultry litter runoff fuels algae growth that reduces the clarity of rivers and streams, depletes oxygen and can kill certain populations of fish. Filed June 13, the lawsuit seeks unspecified money to clean up the Illinois River and is using the same South Carolina law firm that handled lawsuits against tobacco companies. According to the lawsuit, Arkansas has 2,363 chicken houses in the Illinois River watershed while Oklahoma has 508. The chickens add phosphorus waste equivalent to 10.7 million people per year, Edmondson says. The farmers have banded together as a group called "Poultry Partners" in an effort to have a voice they say they didn''t have in previous litigation.