Report blames meat industry for massive "dead zones" in world's waterways

A dead zone the size of New Jersey has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is growing even larger, and a new report says that meat industries are to blame for much of it.
By Kara Menard | Aug 04, 2017
A dead zone the size of New Jersey has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is growing even larger, and a new report says that meat industries are to blame for much of it. Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman, states that runoff from livestock ranches and farms that grow food for livestock is fueling enormous algal blooms that are wrecking ecosystems in large swaths of the Gulf and other large bodies of water along with it.
"This problem is worsening and worsening and regulation isn't reducing the scope of this pollution," said Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty. "These companies' practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden."
Mighty's ecologists assessed agribusiness and meat-production supply chains and found that a "highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system" was clearing away vast tracts of grassland in the midwestern United States to lay out fields for soy and corn to feed livestock. Without these grasses to act as a buffer, fertilizer runoff from these fields easily makes its way into waterways.

Manure and other pollutants from livestock farms compound the problem. The report found that Tyson's farms alone generated 55 million tons of manure last year and that, in all, Tyson was responsible for and 104 million tons of pollutants of all kinds entering U.S.-based waterways over the last decade.

Once these pollutants reach the Gulf and other large bodies of water, the report adds, they become food for algae. Algae grow and suction away much of the water's oxygen, and in the process kill off most other forms of lifewhich creates large dead zones.

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