Meat industry runoff has created a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico

Originally published at:


The Gulf of Mexico just can’t catch a break.


What is the color on the map for? Grassland conversion?

“Meat industry runoff has created a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico”

“Starbucks now offers meat and pepper in your coffee”

Some see a problem, others see an opportunity.


Is it me or do the highlighted states look like a bigger version of MN? Greater Minnesota.

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Doesn’t BP’s spilled oil counteract the manure? /s


So it’s Starbucks fault?

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Nitrate pollution? They are blaming vegetable farming runoff on meat factories? Whilst simultaneously attributing most corn grain production to meat (Cows eat mostly corn chaff, a waste product and huge amounts of corn are for making gasahol, not meat) , and claiming 1/3 of all lands in USA are devoted to raising meat?

This appears to be another in an unending torrent of hit pieces on the meat industry, written by an advocacy group who is trying to give itself a scientific veneer. Meat is a shiny squirrel issue grassrooted by the Koch brothers to divert attention from what the real problem is - burning carbon fuels.

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The human brain is incredibly good at pattern recognition, even discerning patterns out of meaningless noise (i.e. seeing a face on the martian surface or seeing jesus on a piece of toast). I know this report isn’t a peer reviewed scientific report, but it would have been nice to see some statistics on the correlation of contaminated watersheds and meat industry. Plotting the locations of processing facilities on a map of contaminated regions and saying “Tyson and Smithfield have the heaviest concentration of meat facilities in those regions of the country with the highest levels of nitrate contamination” is not very convincing. For instance why is the region with the greatest density of Tyson meat processing plants (southern Missouri & northern Arkansas) show some of the lowest levels of grassland conversion and nitrate contamination? Did the contamination and grassland conversion happen prior to the 2007-2016 data window reported here?

I think the dead zone is likely exacerbated by the meat industry in the Mississippi watershed, but this report doesn’t seem to prove it. I do like the bullet points at the end of the report showing basic steps that could be taken to reduce nitrate contamination from the meat industry.

/wall of text

I too blame Starbucks, and not my love of hamburgers.




Class action suit: fishing industry vs. meat industry.

Problem solved.

At least until the ocean is fished out.

Then they can all merge into the soylent industry.

Problem solved again.


I think it’s because the plants in southern Missouri and in Arkansas are chicken processing plants - so not much grassland conversion (you can fit a lot of chickens in a small space. And they do.
The grassland conversion in, say southern Nebreska and Iowa, though, are probably associated with growing corn in what was formerly grassland. The southern Nebraska part, at least, can probably be attributed to increased availability of irrigation.
It’s hard to see where the conversion has fuck all to do with the Tyson plants, though, except that they’re both in the midwest where crops are grown and livestock is raised.

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This is definitely junk science and a distraction from the fact that ALL industrialized farming activities in the miswest are responsible for this problem and have been.
This includes the production of meat replacement proteins.
The fight against meat consumption is definitely a distraction from the real fight against the totality of the destructive nature of human industrial food production all of which is affecting the environment equally.
Until we address this problem wholisticly, the focus on the meat industry, is only helping soy/corn producers continue their enormously destructive practices.

That’s right. Quit picking on the wise and kind meat industry, you guys.


Tragic nobody can connect the waste of one industry (fertilizer, and by extension algal blooms) and combine it with another problem (asian carp) and make a mint out of it (aquaculture). Given the low oxygen tolerance of those animals, and how quickly they grow given a good supply of algae, it’d be a great way to make a buck off a (wait for it) shitty situation.

I think you need to substantiate a few things here - like validating your claim on corn chaff and that ethanol is using up more corn than livestock - it’s only just starting to catch up.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that a huge portion of the US (and global) arable land is reserved for livestock (both animals and their feed), I’ve seen it in ‘advocacy’ magazines like National Geographic.

Take a dive into how much carbon is burned in animal agriculture as well…

One could say there used to be an ‘unending torrent of hit pieces on the cigarette industry’, maybe there’s a reason for it.


The causes of the dead zone in the Gulf are quite well studied, and there are significant efforts in process to reverse it. Our scientific establishment has been on this for quite a long time.

The cited report is unfortunately a bunch of bull designed to support a particular policy position. If you really care about the pollution in the Gulf, it is worth getting the right story.

The high meat consumption in the US does have something to do with it, but the mechanism is not what they describe here.

And not to forget water consumption:


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So, are you volunteering to eat only food you raise yourself? How’s it working out for you??

I think this is a good reason to get most or all of your meat from local farmers. That’s what I do.

Of course, I could give up meat entirely, which would allow me to browbeat people by declaiming loudly and often the virtue of my action…

Naaahhh, not gonna do that.