Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)


Over the past 50 years farming has changed considerably, with many of todays farms being large industrial facilities. The majority of meat, milk, and eggs are produced on these large farms, called factory farms.

What are factory farms?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), has designated these factory farms as CAFOS if they are “new and existing operations which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the number of animals specified” in categories that they list out on their website. Also, “there’s no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season.”

These CAFOS may contain anywhere from 700 cattle to 125,000 chickens. The problem with having so many animals in such close quarters is that large quantities of anitbiotics need to be used to prevent infection and/or promote growth and the waste form these animals poses significant threats to the nearby waterways. Read more about this issue on the Sustainable Table site.

Find out how factory farms effect us all. Go to the Factory Farm Map created by Food and Water Watch. They created this map to “to illustrate something that people in rural America have known for a long time: family farms are being replaced by factory farms, and these facilities are overwhelming some regions of the country. This method of raising livestock harms rural communities and puts small family farms out of business. It takes away consumers’ choice at the grocery store, makes food safety problems happen on a larger scale, and creates more waste than the surrounding environment can adequately absorb.”

The areas where many CAFOs are located are in poor, non-white communities making this an environmental just ice issue as well. Wing S. et al researched the location and characteristics of CAFO hog production facilities in North Carolina and describe their findings in Environmental Injustice in North Carolina’s Hog Operations.

The independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) was formed to conduct a comprehensive, fact-based and balanced examination of key aspects of the farm animal industry. For 2 1/2 years, the PCIFAP, in consultation with other national experts, conducted an assessment of the industry’s impact on the public’s health, the environment, farm communities and animal health and well-being. On April 29, 2008 it issued a comprehensive report of its findings, including practical recommendations that have been made available to policymakers, industry stakeholders and the general public. Read the report: Putting Meat on The Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America

“The livestock industry (including poultry) is vital to our national economy, supplying meat, milk, eggs, and other animal products and providing meaningful employment in rural communities. Until recently, food animal production was integrated with crop production in a balanced way that was generally beneficial to farmers and society as a whole. But livestock production has undergone a transformation in which a small number of very large CAFOs predominate. These CAFOs have imposed significant—but largely unaccounted for—costs on taxpayers and communities throughout the United States.” Read about these unaccounted costs: CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations

Read: CAFOs and Environmental Justice: The Case of North Carolina