Water use and water quality are priorities at Pilgrim’s and critical pillars in our sustainability program. We recognize that water scarcity is a major global issue and that water is critical to securing a consistent, high-quality global food supply. We embrace our responsibility to reduce water use and strive to improve our water-stewardship efforts by monitoring use at each Pilgrim’s facility and prioritizing usage reductions, while preserving our high standards for food safety and sanitary conditions. We are also aware that some Pilgrim’s facilities are located in water-stressed areas and require a more strategic focus to ensure proper water management. Water quality is also an important priority for us, and we continuously work to make sure all wastewater we discharge meets or exceeds all legal and internal quality standards.
At Pilgrim’s, water stewardship is crucial to our long-term viability. Companywide, our approach to water stewardship is defined at the corporate level, but individual goals and targets are developed at each facility to ensure ownership and accountability. Each facility is tasked with responding to unique local challenges and determines the most effective approach at that location, including withdrawal sources, discharge destinations, wastewater treatment programs and reuse and recycling strategies. We work closely and collaboratively with federal, state and local municipalities to address complex issues and jointly develop sustainable solutions. Finally, every facility invests capital annually to make sure goals are achieved and local challenges are appropriately addressed.
“Since 2010, Moy Park has reduced its water use intensity by 32 percent. I am proud that we surpassed our 2020 water use intensity reduction target three years early, and I am looking forward to our continued focus and improvement in this area.”
Environmental Director Pilgrim’s Moy Park
There are many operational challenges associated with reduced water use from our production and further processing facilities, most importantly, the critical role water plays in a safe food supply. Water is used every day in our facilities so that the highest food safety standards are met, and, in some facilities, dramatic reductions in water use could compromise our food safety and food-quality standards. We work cross-functionally across our environmental, engineering, operations and food quality and safety teams when designing and implementing water reduction strategies to ensure food safety is never compromised.
The greatest opportunity for water reduction is through water recycling projects. All our production facilities recycle water. Depending on the facility, this may include elaborate recycling systems that allow previously used water to be reused in other areas of the facility.
Each of our production and further processing facilities has a wastewater treatment program specifically tailored to that facility’s discharge permit requirements. These site-specific programs have helped address noncompliance issues.
Reduce water use intensity by 10%. From 2015 to 2018, our water use intensity has increased 13%.
*Goals set based on 2013, 2014, 2015 average baselines for our U.S. facilities
We track both total water use and water intensity (water use per lb. of finished product including by-products) to consistently identify opportunities for improvements, irrespective of changes in production. In 2018, we used 14.3 billion gallons of water in our facilities, drawing 76 percent of this water from public municipalities, 21 percent from groundwater sources and 2 percent from surface water, including streams. We reused more than 1.1 billion gallons of water in 2018, which is approximately 8 percent of our total water consumption. We will work to continue to optimize water use and identify opportunities to reduce water use intensity without compromising food safety, animal welfare or environmental compliance.
Unfortunately, from 2017 to 2018, as a global company, our water use intensity increased by 5.9 percent. This is due to increased overall water use due to additional necessary food safety interventions. In 2019, we will increase our focus on water, ensuring that we stay committed to reducing this critical resource while maintaining our high food safety standards.
For our business units in the U.S. and Puerto Rico who participated in our 2020 goal setting, overall water use intensity increased 12.9 percent since 2015. Unfortunately, from 2017 to 2018, our water use intensity increased by 6.9 percent. These teams will continue to stay focused on reducing water use to meet our 10 percent reduction target in 2020.
In 2018, all our facilities treated wastewater to achieve water-quality levels suitable for discharge. Pilgrim’s includes both modern and legacy facilities that require varying levels of water systems, infrastructure maintenance and support. We have steadily increased our investment in our wastewater programs to make sure we maintain and, where needed, improve compliance with permits, laws and regulations. Discharged water is measured for its overall quality at each facility to ensure it meets permitting requirements. The majority, 62 percent, of discharged water is sent to city-owned treatment centers, while 30 percent is discharged into non-municipalities, and 8 percent is used as land irrigation.
Pilgrim’s has conducted a comprehensive water risk assessment, inclusive of quantity (baseline water stress, inter-annual variability, seasonal variability, flood occurrence, drought severity, upstream storage and groundwater storage), quality (return flow ratio and upstream protected land) and regulatory and reputational risk (media coverage, access to water and threatened amphibians) for each Pilgrim’s facility location. Overall water risk identifies areas with higher exposure to these water-related risks. As indicated in the graphic below, the majority of our facilities are low to medium or medium to high risk as defined by the World Resources Institute Aqueduct, 2014.
The water risk assessment is a critical element of our water stewardship strategy and allows us to identify and prioritize specific water resource projects that are locally relevant to each watershed and reduce the company’s overall water impact.