A coalition of advocacy groups charges Smithfield Foods, the world’s No. 1 pork producer, routinely makes false and misleading claims about the sustainability of its products and environmental record.
In its Feb. 4 Federal Trade Commission filing, the Food & Water Watch-led coalition charges that Smithfield’s use of anaerobic digesters to transform pig manure, which is captured from barns as it falls through slatted floors into temporary concrete storage bins, into biogas is nothing but an attempt at greenwashing.
Smithfield puts its manure-to-energy program at the centerpiece of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025.
“Instead of actually cleaning up its act, Smithfield is investing in slick tag lines and false solutions like factory farm anaerobic digesters to dupe consumers,” Tyler Lobdell, Food & Water Watch attorney, said in a statement. “This is classic corporate greenwashing, and the FTC must take action to protect the public and truly sustainable producers from this illegal conduct.”
F&WW say digesters serve to entrench dangerous factory farm practices and monetize waste mismanagement rather than deal with the root causes of greenhouse gas emissions.
The complaint also knocks Smithfield’s claims of running an “industry-leading sustainability program” and being close to achieving an environmental goal of “100% compliance, 100% of the time.”
Smithfield’s poor performance on the environmental front (the company is the No. 3 water polluter in the US) makes a mockery of its “Good food. Responsibly” corporate slogan, according to the coalition.
The complaint asks the FTC to investigate and take enforcement action against Smithfield by requiring it to drop misleading claims and refrain from making similar misrepresentations in the future.
"This letter, from groups that repeatedly attack agricultural companies and farmers, contains false allegations and is without merit," said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield's chief administrative officer: We remain focused on providing safe, affordable food while pursuing our ambitious sustainability goals from coast to coast.
Besides F&WW, the coalition includes Cape Fear River Watch, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Dakota Rural Action, Family Farm Action Alliance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Missouri Rural Crisis Center.
China’s WH Group bought Smithfield Farms for $5B in 2013.