Largest dead zone ever hits the Gulf of Mexico

Scientists have measured a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico, making it the largest-ever dead zone recorded in the area, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

A dead zone occurs when nutrient pollution — largely from agricultural runoff like fertilizer and manure — makes its way into bodies of water, fueling algal growth. When the algae dies, it decomposes, creating oxygen-free zones that can no longer sustain marine life.

A report by the environmental group Mighty suggests that this year’s extra-large dead zone is a direct result of industrial meat production, which feeds nutrient runoff both through manure produced by the animals and fertilizer used to grow animal feed.

The report looks at companies responsible for large amounts of nutrient runoff, and implicates Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in the United States, as a key culprit behind the dead zone. According to the report, Tyson has major processing facilities in every state listed by the United States Geological Survey as states from which nutrient runoff flows to the Gulf.

Another report, released last year by Environment America, found that Tyson dumps more waste into American waterways each year than companies like Exxon or Dow Chemical.

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