Tesco has come under fire as river campaigners claim the supermarket’s poultry and egg suppliers in Wye Valley have ecologically deteriorated the river.
The Big 4 grocer is the largest customer of the main egg and poultry producers in the area. Campaigners from River Action have warned that the river is suffering severe levels of pollution from high levels of phosphate from excrement produced by intensive chicken farming.
“It is unacceptable for a national retailer like Tesco to support (and indeed require) intensive chicken production at the expense of, and without regard to, the health of local environments, including the rivers on which communities including their farmers depend,” the campaign group’s letter to Tesco executives said.
Currently, Tesco is the biggest customer of Wye Valley egg producer Noble Foods and chicken producer Avara Foods. The supermarket first switched to Avara foods in 2019 and expanded its factory in Hereford to meet the demand.
Wye Valley houses 20 million birds in intensive poultry units, which has coincided with water quality failing current standards due to high phosphate concentrations.
River Action first called the grocer to raise its supply chain’s ecological standards 18 months ago, which didn’t lead to any further action. The campaigners have since asked Tesco to meet sustainable Leaf Marque standards by the end of 2022.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Protecting and maintaining water quality and biodiversity in our supply chains is an important element of the work we do with our suppliers, and we want to play our part in ensuring the protection of the River Wye, alongside other actors across the food industry.
According to professor of catchment biogeochemistry at Lancaster University Paul Withers said phosphorus surplus in the Wye catchment is nearly 60% greater than the national average due to excessive livestock manure being produced.
“Together with our partners WWF, we have directly funded the work of the Wye & Usk Foundation to tackle water pollution in the area. They work directly with our suppliers on implementing nature-based solutions, including tree planting, as well as supporting farmers to test soils and implement on-farm best practices that all help reduce pollution in the River Wye.
“We continue to engage with suppliers and stakeholders across all agricultural sectors in the region.”