"Smithfield’s announcement last night that the company will move 90 percent of its hog finishing “spaces” in three states towards a goal of using manure-to-energy technology raises more questions than it answers. But one thing is clear – this plan does not solve the problem of factory farms.
Chief among those questions is who will pay to install expensive, complicated digester equipment on manure lagoons and the infrastructure needed to pipe biogas offsite to be burned for electricity or to supply other gas demand. Pushing these costs back onto contract growers while Smithfield greenwashes its image is just another example of the unfair contract requirements already imposed on many hog and chicken farmers by meat companies.
Manure-to-energy is a false solution for the environment. It further entrenches the factory farm model by creating a market for the huge volumes of manure produced there. Notably, Smithfield’s plan includes building numerous new factory farms in Utah to capitalize on this technology. Investing in the massive infrastructure needed to execute this plan wastes critical resources that should be used to shift us towards real renewable energy and a more sustainable way of raising livestock.
Propping up the factory farm system by investing in manure-to-energy infrastructure will not eliminate the other harms these facilities create. Regardless of how the manure is managed, factory farms still threaten the safety of our food, create unsafe and unhealthy conditions for workers and neighbors, confine animals and drive increased antibiotic resistance.
We need to hold factory farms and the companies that run them accountable for the impacts they have on the environment, not rely on the false promise of a technological quick fix."