Poultry litter is a fancy term for a mix of feces, sawdust, feathers, spilled feed, and other waste that might result from raising chickens and turkeys.

The byproduct, which is often used as fertilizer and sometimes in livestock feed, is getting some attention this week as the state of Oklahoma’s lawsuit against 11 big poultry companies goes to trial over whether the companies are responsible for environmental degradation allegedly caused by poultry litter.

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The state is pursuing the lawsuit to stop companies from dumping what it considers “excessive waste” onto farmland, which consequently ends up in the Illinois River watershed. 

The poultry litter has caused harm to the lakes and streams in the 1 million-acre watershed between eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas and has spread bacteria that poses a threat to human health, claims the suit.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cal-Maine Foods, Inc; Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cargill Turkey Production L. L C., George’s Inc., George’s Farms Inc., Peterson Farms Inc. and Simmons Foods Inc.

Food Safety News will be covering the trial this week.

Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.