Destroying small farmers

Turning Farms into Factories

July 20th, 2007
Excerpt from the executive summary:

Industrial animal production, the practice of confining thousands of cows, hogs, chickens, or other animals in tightly packed facilities has become the dominant method of meat production in the United States. This report, which accompanies Food & Water Watch‚ online map of factory farm animal production, explains the forces that have driven the growth of factory farms, as well as the environmental, public health, and economic consequences of the rise of this type of animal production.

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Residents in several regions have successfully stopped factory farms from setting up shop in their communities. But their counterparts in other places have been stymied by the financial and political clout of the livestock industry that relies on factory farm production and uses its influence to wipe out local and state efforts to regulate them. Lax environmental regulations, poverty, and cheap land values make some parts of the country particularly vulnerable to an influx of factory farms.

As the online map illustrates, confined animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs or factory farms, are found throughout the United States. But some regions host a comparatively large share of intensive animal production—Iowa and North Carolina for hogs, California and Idaho for dairy cows, Texas and Kansas for cattle feedlots, Georgia and Alabama for broiler chickens, and Iowa and Ohio for egg production. Many of these regions are home to more than one type of factory farm.

Factory farms bring serious human health and environmental consequences to the communities where they locate. The millions of gallons of manure and other waste they produce cannot be properly managed and often spill into waterways. They emit toxic chemicals that can harm human health and cause hazardous air and water pollution. People working in these animal factories or those living nearby often suffer intensely from the odors and experience a range of negative physical effects.

People thousands of miles away from these facilities are not immune to their impacts, either. Consumers eating the dairy, egg, and meat products produced there are faced with the consequences of antibiotic and artificial hormone use and other food safety problems.

As these industrial animal operations spread, they are driving more family farmers out of business or seriously curtailing their ability to make a living raising animals. But some farmers have been able to escape the factory farm model. Those who live near cities have turned to raising meat and dairy products for direct marketing to consumers. Others have turned to organic production.

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