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Gloucestershire Business News

Chicken firms say they will tackle pollution

Chicken producers in the Wye Valley say they are keen to tackle pollution of the river by waste from farms and processing.

Avara Foods and Noble Foods which supply retailers like Tescos have committed to working with other bodies to prevent phosphates getting into the watercourse.

Campaign group River Action says the run-off of thousands of tons of chicken waste used as manure on surrounding land is affecting the 'ecological health' of the river.

The Wye Valley has become a centre for intensive chicken-rearing in recent years with an estimated 20 million birds in the Wye catchment area.

Avara owns the chicken processing plant on Newent Business Park run by Freemans of Newent Ltd.

In 2019, the company's sister site across the border in Hereford increased production by 5.2 million birds a year.

A spokesman for Avara Foods said: "While not a direct contributor to River Wye pollution, we recognise that the use of our chicken litter on land in the Wye catchment does have an impact."

The company has been looking at other ways of disposing of waste including Combine Heat and Power plants and novel Anaerobic Digestion technology.

But the spokesman added: "We have been very clear that implementing a solution will come about from constructive and collaborative partnerships, not one organisation acting alone.

"As such, precise timescales are not in our control or of any other single organisation - hence the need for those partnerships."

A spokesperson for Happy Egg producers Noble Foods said: "We firmly believe that protecting the environment is extremely important. Although we represent a small, single digit percentage of the poultry flock in the area, we take our responsibility very seriously and have been working on thorough risk assessments for the small number of farms we have in the region.

"It is our objective to mitigate risk and protect the surrounding waterways where farms are located and we are actively working with industry experts, the Wye & Usk Foundation and the BEIC to share best practice to ensure the widest positive impact.

"We are in contact with River Action and will update them appropriately on the developments in our collaborations with the aforementioned groups. There is no 'one size fits all' approach and we believe we have an important role to play in facilitating the right focus from other agricultural businesses also working in the region."

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