Might Earth Chicago and Clean Water/Clean Food

By Carly Schulman; Photos by Supreet Muppa (cover photo), Tyler Bogartz-Brown, and Haley Diel

At Next Bites, our mission is to empower members of the foodservice industry and dedicated dines alike to reduce our collective footprint, bolstering the health of our planet and its people. 

When it comes to food sourcing, most of our focus is on helping people find the best alternatives to industrial agriculture (and helping grow the market for these alternative options).  Our focus to date largely does not address industrial agriculture, but that does not mean we don’t care about improving its environmental sustainability!

A few days before Thanksgiving, I say down with Celeste Pepitone-Nahas, a Greencorps organizer working from Might Earth Chicago.  Mighty Earth Chicago is an organization leading a campaign aimed at changing the status quo of industrial farming.  This campaign targets Tyson Foods, asking them to make the following changes:



-          Raise all meat using pollution-free feed

-          Diversify beyond corn and soy to include rotationally raised small   grains

-          Implement more responsible manure management

-          Enact a moratorium on native ecosystem losses

-          Provide transparent reporting on progress towards cleaner meat



What does this campaign mean for the goals of Next Bites?  If this campaign is successful in changing how the farms with which Tyson works, it means that anyone and any restaurant purchasing Tyson products (labelled as such or not!) will now be partaking in a more environmentally sustainable endeavor without needing to reorganize their budget or other resources to allow that to happen.  If Tyson makes this commitment, ecosystems along the Mississippi river all the way to the Gulf of Mexico will be vastly improved, ensuring that those in the restaurant and fishing industries will be able to continue sourcing from our environment.

Photo from Clean Water / Clean Food Forum on November 16th

Photo from Clean Water / Clean Food Forum on November 16th

As it stands, the drinking water of 420,000 people in Illinois contains cancer-causing chemicals from agricultural runoff.  Runoff of fertilizer reaches into many ecosystems during its journey into the Gulf of Mexico where it contributes to a huge dead-zone of marine life. 

Tyson Food’s official response to the campaign can be found here, and their concerns about other industries contributing to these same problems are notable.  However, we hope that they can see this campaign as an opportunity for them to take charge and lead the way in this area of environmental sustainability. 

So far 50 businesses, organizations, and restaurants in Chicago have signed the Might Earth Coalition letter asking Tyson Foods to be a leader in sustainable practices.  If you are interested in taking action on this issue, there will be an activist training workshop on December 5th at Next Door Chicago

For further inquiries, please contact Celeste Pepitone-Nahas at celeste@greencorps.org