Tyson Foods sets net-zero emissions goal, but falls short on farming project

FILE PHOTO: Tyson food meat products are shown in this photo illustration in Encinitas

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Tyson Foods set a goal on Wednesday to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2050, after missing a deadline to improve U.S. farming practices as part of an earlier effort to cut emissions.

The new target by the biggest U.S. meatpacker by sales expands a previous goal of reducing emissions by 30% by 2030.

To achieve net-zero emissions, Tyson said it will plan for U.S. operations to use 50% renewable energy by 2030 and extend a program to verify sustainable production practices for cattle, among other steps.

“We believe progress requires accountability and transparency,” said John Tyson, chief sustainability officer.

Three years ago, Tyson Foods pledged to improve environmental practices on two million acres (809,370 hectares)of U.S. farmland by 2020. So far, though, it has enrolled just 408,000 acres, according to the company.

Tyson said it now plans to meet its two-million-acre target by 2025.

The company does not own grain farms but has influence over farming as the U.S. meat industry’s largest buyer of feed corn. Two million acres is enough land to grow corn to feed all Tyson chickens for a year.

The 408,000 acres represent land enrolled in a 2019 pilot program by Farmers Business Network, which sells agricultural supplies online, according to Tyson.

A pilot program run by another company, MyFarms, enrolled 11,000 acres in 2019, Tyson said. However, Tyson removed these acres last year due to a lack of data and discontinued MyFarms’ pilot in 2021, according to the meatpacker.

For Tyson Foods, it was a big learning experience to determine how to obtain “high-quality information about what’s going on at the farm in a way that is as frictionless as possible for all parties,” John Tyson said.

Interruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic also hindered land stewardship work last year, Tyson said in a sustainability report.

Meatpackers including Tyson came under fire in 2020 as COVID-19 infections tore through slaughterhouses.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; editing by Richard Pullin)