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The global meat industry has been blamed for the planet's largest dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to The National Ocean Service: "Less oxygen dissolved in the water is often referred to as a 'dead zone' because most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area.
"Habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts."
A report by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman, claims that toxins from manure and fertilizer pouring into waterways are exacerbating huge, harmful algal blooms that create oxygen-deprived stretches of the gulf.
In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [Noaa] will reportedly announce that the largest ever recorded dead zone is in the Gulf of Mexico - and it is bigger than 8,200 square miles.
According to Mighty's report: "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."
Algae growth is stimulated by these nutrients flowing into streams, rivers and oceans. When this excess algae decomposes, it eats up oxygen in the water, which either kills marine life - or makes it leave the area.
Mighty claims just a few businesses are responsible for 'contaminating our water and destroying our landscape'.
Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty, says: "This problem is worsening and worsening and regulation isn’t reducing the scope of this pollution.
"These companies’ practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden."
Companies identified in the report include Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, which the report says slaughters 35m chickens and 125,000 head of cattle every week, which requires five million acres of corn a year for feed.
Von Reusner said: "Large parts of America are being plowed up for corn and soy to raise meat. There is very little regulation so we can’t wait for that.
"The corporate agriculture sector has shown it is responsive to consumer concerns about meat production so we hope that the largest meat companies will meet expectations on this."
A spokeswoman for Tyson said: “We don’t agree with the group’s characterization of our company but share its interest in protecting the environment.
"It's true the livestock and poultry industry is a major buyer of grain for feed, however, the report fails to note that a large percentage of corn raised in the US is used for biofuel and that a significant portion is used for human consumption.
"Tyson Foods is focused on continuous improvement. We are constantly looking to improve and lead the industry, so that we can deliver sustainable food to people every day at a scale that matters to the world."
Still, the report urges Tyson to ensure grain producers reduce their pollution into water.
Lucia von Reusner says: "Americans should not have to choose between producing food and having healthy clean water.
"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.
"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."
Maria is a former magazine editor and newspaper reporter. She has specialized in writing content for the plant-based sector for several years, as well as reporting on agriculture, politics and regional news. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.
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