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Agricultural News

Environmental Group Blames the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone at the Mouth of the Mississippi on Tyson and US Meat Production

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 05:42:10 CDT

Environmental Group Blames the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone at the Mouth of the Mississippi on Tyson and US Meat Production A new report, released by the environmental activist group Mighty Earth, identifies the companies they believe responsible for the widespread manure and fertilizer pollution contaminating water from the Heartland to the Gulf. Much of this pollution comes from the vast quantities of corn and soy used to raise meat animals, and has caused one of the largest Dead Zones on record in the Gulf of Mexico this year.

To identify the companies responsible, the investigation maps the supply chains of the top meat and feed companies, and overlays it with data showing elevated nitrate concentrations in waterways that are experiencing high levels of fertilizer pollution. The report also mapped where these supply chains are driving destruction of natural grasslands, including native prairies, putting new regions at risk for fertilizer pollution.

America’s largest meat company, Tyson Foods, stood out for its expansive footprint in all the regions suffering the worst pollution impacts from industrial meat and feed production. Tyson produces one out of every five pounds of meat produced in the United States. Mighty Earth contends that the company is consistently ranked among the top polluters in America, although Tyson’s new CEO has declared that a focus on sustainability will be at the center of the company’s future plans.

“Americans should not have to choose between producing food and having healthy clean water”, says Mighty Earth campaign director Lucia von Reusner. “Big meat companies like Tyson have left a trail of pollution across the country, and have a responsibility to their customers and the public to clean it up.”

“As the public has gained awareness of the major impacts of industrial meat production, many consumers have been trying to find more sustainable options,” said von Reusner. “This report shows that our nation’s largest meat companies shape our food system on a massive scale, and can implement the solutions needed to make meat less polluting.”

To read the complete report - click or tap here.

After report was released, Tyson said it “doesn’t agree with the group’s characterization of the company, but shares its interests in protecting the environment.” Tyson added in an email to Meatingplace that it is working with the World Resources Institute to develop goals for improving its environmental footprint and plans to announce a collaboration with other third-party organizations to help set additional science-based targets. The processor also said the report failed to note that a large percentage of U.S.-raised corn beyond supplying the livestock and poultry industry is used for biofuel and a significant portion is used for human consumption.

The report arrives in the wake of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) prediction in June that this summer’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone would be the third-largest recorded since monitoring began 32 years ago. The estimated dead zone of 8,185 square miles, about the size of New Jersey, will be significantly larger than the average area of low or no oxygen in the Gulf of 5,309 square miles, NOAA said.

NOAA says of the enlarged dead zone "The Gulf’s hypoxic or low-oxygen zones are caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from human activities such as agriculture and wastewater treatment. The excess nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decomposes in the water. The resulting low oxygen levels are insufficient to support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters, threatening the Gulf’s fisheries."

Source- Mighty Earth website, Meatingplace and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration



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