A recent report by the environmental group Mighty Earth has found that runoff from farms loaded with phosphorus and other toxins from manure and fertilizer is to blame for creating the toxic algae blooms that have become commonplace “from the Great Lakes to Chesapeake Bay.”1


Just this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA) reported that this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the largest ever measured, covering 8,776 square miles.


Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director for Gulf Restoration Network, said,

“This massive dead zone shows that current efforts from States and the Feds are woefully inadequate. Study after study has shown that everyone from EPA to state environmental departments need to step up their game. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened. In fact, we just see the dead zone growing bigger and bigger.”2

Last year almost 1.15 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution, coming from farms, flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. Our nation’s obsession with meat is killing both our native grassland prairies (which are destroyed to make room for new industrial fields) and our bodies of water.3

In 2015, the U.S. produced:

  • 24 billion pounds of beef
  • 40 billion pounds of chicken
  • 25 billion pounds of pork
  • 2018 projections are 27 billion pounds of beef, 48 billion for chicken and 26 billion for pork.

Every year the Gulf dead zone forms when pollution rich with nitrogen flows from fields into streams and rivers. The water eventually finds its way into the Mississippi River and then, the Gulf. There the pollutants form toxic algae blooms that decompose and choke off oxygen to marine life:

“According to the report, the organization ‘mapped the meat and feed companies’ extensive infrastructure, including grain silos, feed mixing facilities, feedlots and slaughterhouses, and overlaid the maps with data showing both natural grassland clearance for corn and soy, and water nitrate concentrations linked to fertilizer pollution.'”4

The biggest contributor? Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest supplier of beef, chicken, and pork. They might not be personally responsible for all the fields but they produce “one out of every five pounds”5 of meat in the U.S. (they also own brands like Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park and Sara Lee and sell to fast food retailers like McDonald’s).

Tyson, for their part, sees the report as failing “to address that a large percentage of corn raised in the U.S. is used for biofuel and a significant portion is used for human consumption.” 6 Sure. But come on…the damage they are doing is astronomical. However, we’re used to seeing Big Ag simply deflect blame and responsibility. It’s easy to do when your bottom line is the almighty dollar.


We have the right to know where our food comes from AND know how it’s made- including how environmentally responsible the growers and producers are or are not. It’s long past time for Big Ag to start taking care of our world. It’s the only one we’ve got.

Sources and References

  1. Weather.com, Aug 2, 2017.
  2. Weather.com, Aug 2, 2017.
  3. Weather.com, Aug 2, 2017.
  4. Weather.com, Aug 2, 2017.
  5. Weather.com, Aug 2, 2017.
  6. Weather.com, Aug 2, 2017.