Blog The harms of factory farms

The harms of factory farms

CAFOs — concentrated animal feeding operations — are cornerstones of modern agriculture.

These long, aluminum-roofed buildings are scattered across the U.S. for hyper-efficient animal farming that keeps up with America’s ravenous appetite for meat.

While they’ve been in use for decades, the public is starting to realize the harms of industrial farms.

Let’s take a look.

WTF is a CAFO?

A CAFO is a large-scale facility where animals — usually cattle, pigs, or chickens —are confined in tight spaces for efficient production. 

There are more than 21,500 CAFOs in the U.S., but they are most common in the Midwest and South. Iowa has the most CAFOs at about 4,200, followed by Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Carolina.

Why does it matter?

On average, about 90% of meat and eggs produced in the U.S. come from CAFOs

While CAFOs keep costs lower for consumers, research shows they are dreadful for the health of humans, animals, and the Earth

Impacts of factory farming

Public health pros, environmentalists, and animal welfare groups have a laundry list of CAFO detriments:

  • Antibiotics, bacteria, and other pathogens, as well as heavy metals, nitrogen, and phosphorous found in animal manure, jeopardize water quality.

A better way

Transitioning away from the CAFOs and toward sustainable agriculture practices offers hope for safer meat production for people, animals, and the Earth.

Regenerative agricultural practices — where animals graze on diverse pastures and contribute to soil health — can reduce environmental degradation and promote animal welfare. Regenerative ag also supports local, small-scale farmers who prioritize environmental stewardship and the treatment of animals.
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