Missouri Community Unites to Stop Slaughterhouse From Polluting Local Waterways


By Rachel Casteel, regional representative, SRAP

A community in Polk County, Missouri, came together and stopped a slaughterhouse from dumping hundreds of thousands of wastewater into an already polluted southwest Missouri river.

Their journey began in March 2023 when Missouri Prime Beef Packers, located north of Pleasant Hope, Missouri, asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) to modify its permit so that it could legally dump 350,000 gallons of  “treated wastewater” per day into Pomme de Terre River.

The proposal set alarm bells off throughout the community. Concerned about a number of issues, including the beef processor’s checkered past, locals contacted Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) for help.

A quick dive into the case revealed that despite having only opened in 2021,

Missouri Prime Beef had already racked up a number of violations including failing to renew its state operating permit and polluting a tributary of the Pomme de Terre River—the same body of water it was asking regulators to discharge in “at all times.”

The beef processor wanted to use a technology called iLeaf that uses microorganisms to break down waste before piping it into the river.

“The proposed treatment plan for the wastewater doesn’t make it clean,” argued locals in a petition with more than 5,000 signatures. “It takes the meat chunks out of it by dissolving it with enzymes.”

Among their concerns was the impact the pollution would have on the community’s already impaired waterways.

Pomme de Terre River, which provides spring-fed water for canoeing, swimming, and fishing, is on the federal list of impaired waterways due to E. coli contamination.

Pomme de Terre Lake, which is fed by the river, is also impaired with high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, which is caused by farm fertilizer runoff. The wastewater from Missouri Prime Beef could have introduced more of those same pollutants into the local waterways.

Protecting public health, water quality, and the area’s wildlife was important to residents of Polk County, many of whom have lived near the Pomme de Terre for generations.

Fortunately, by the time SRAP was contacted, the community had already banded together with great momentum and energy. Our team, which includes technical experts, independent family farmers, and rural residents, helped the community develop a strategy on how to get their voices heard.

In November 2023, the MoDNR issued a draft notice of intent to deny the beef processor’s request. It offered the public three forums to participate in the process: two virtual options and a final, in-person hearing.

The community showed up in droves and voiced their concerns through some 800 public comments! They made clear that they weren’t trying to shut the plant down, but wanted it to adhere to responsible practices that prioritized water quality.

The Polk County residents simply wanted to protect their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren’s right to enjoy the beauty provided by the Pomme de Terre River and its tributaries.

In January this year, their wish was granted when Missouri Prime Beef withdrew its permit application to use iLeaf technology to discharge wastewater into the Pomme de Terre watershed. The public hearing scheduled for January 6 was subsequently canceled.

A few days later, the beef processor entered into an administrative order on consent with the MoDNR to respond to and resolve land application and permit-related Missouri Clean Water Law violations.

The order includes penalties for land application violations, requirements to submit a permit application, and a legal mechanism establishing temporary operational controls and land application requirements, which include consequences for continued noncompliance.

At the time of this writing, the facility is not authorized to discharge into Pomme de Terre River or any other waterways in the state.

Missouri Prime Beef’s request to pollute was shut down thanks to the efforts of concerned residents who decided to take action and protect their right to clean water.

“The Missouri Department of Natural Resources had previously reviewed the Missouri Prime Beef Packers’ request and determined it wouldn’t harm the river,” reported Missouri Independent. “But after hearing concerns from members of the public, the agency announced a draft denial, saying the company didn’t meet all of the regulatory requirements to use an innovative technology.”

About SRAP

For more than 20 years, SRAP has served as a mobilizing force to help communities protect themselves from the damages caused by industrial livestock operations and to advocate for a food system built on regenerative practices, justice, democracy, and resilience. Learn more at sraproject.org.