Avara, Herefordshire’s largest private employer, and Tesco have defended their environmental record locally following a demonstration in Hereford highlighting the impact of chicken production on the river Wye.

Marches Climate Action (MCA), part of the Extinction Rebellion movement, handed out cards for shoppers to sign at Tesco’s Bewell Street store on Saturday (January 14).

The cards claimed that the supermarket is not living up to its environment policy on water quality, due to the continuing problem of phosphates from manure from the river Wye catchment’s many poultry farms seeping from surrounding fields into the river, causing its “death”.

MCA says that it gathered 136 signed cards from shoppers in two hours, but that the store’s manager “declined the invitation to receive these messages of concern, despite initially agreeing” - a claim Tesco denies.

The group said it would now keep hold of the messages “and return another day to gather more”.


It explained that it focussed on Tesco due to “a massive poultry contract” it concluded with producers in 2013, giving rise to what MCA called the “explosion” of poultry production in the Wye catchment to the current 20 million birds.

Tesco’s environmental policy commits it to ensuring that wastewater or pollutants from its supply chain “will not have any adverse impact” on watercourses, and that it will “not knowingly risk causing irreparable ecosystem damage”.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We’re committed to playing our part in ensuring the protection of the river Wye, alongside others across the food industry.

“In partnership with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), we have funded some of the work of the Wye & Usk Foundation to tackle water pollution in the area.

“They work directly with a number of our suppliers on implementing nature-based solutions, including tree planting, as well as supporting farmers to test soils and implement on-farm best practice that all help reduce pollution in the River Wye.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Avara, which employs 2,000 people locally, said: “We’ve accepted that we are part of the problem, and have developed a plan to resolve this.

“We are the only contributor with a public, data-based and time-framed roadmap that will mitigate our impact in the catchment, and have shared these plans with key parties.”

Formed in 2017 as a partnership between US-based food giant Cargill and poultry firm Faccenda Foods, Avara manages a supply chain of about 120 poultry farms in the Wye catchment which give rise to around 160,000 tonnes of manure a year.

But the company now says that in two years’ time its supply chain will have ceased contributing to excess phosphate in the river.

It says it has already reduced the phosphate in its chicken feed by 27 per cent and plans to reduce this further, as well as bringing in “more robust nutrient, soil and manure management standards”.

Want to get the latest breaking news alerts sent straight to you? It's easy, just sign up for our breaking news email alerts here and the most important stories will be delivered straight to your inbox.

It currently ships 100 tons of manure a week to anaerobic digester (AD) plants elsewhere, a figure it plans to increase to 600 tons a week.

Within the next two years it also intends that “novel AD will be on-stream” while it will also “support alternative, sustainable homes for poultry manure”.

A proposed AD plant off the A417 near Newtown, capable of processing up to 100,000 tons of poultry manure a year, is expected to be decided on by planners shortly. But this has also drawn criticism from environmentalists.

What are your thoughts?

You can send a letter to the editor to have your say by clicking here.

Letters should not exceed 250 words and local issues take precedence.