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What Is A Factory Farm?
Grace Factory Farm Project

Meat production in the United States has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Many of today's farms are actually industrial facilities, not the peaceful, idyllic family farms most Americans think of. These factory farms are also known as confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or intensive livestock operations (ILOs). They emphasize high volume and profit with minimal regard for human health, safe food, the environment, humane treatment of animals, and the rural economy - in other words, factory farms are not sustainable.

The definition of a factory farm varies from state to state; however, these industrial facilities share many of the following characteristics:

  • Hundreds to thousands of animals (mainly cows, pigs, chickens or turkeys) confined tightly together and provided little or no access to sunlight, fresh air or room for natural movement. Some facilities produce millions of animals yearly.
  • Public health problems, including the overuse of antibiotics and food borne illness.
  • Liquid waste systems and "lagoons" to store raw manure.
  • Buildings that confine animals indoors and control their environment.
  • Mutilation of animals such as debeaking poultry, clipping pigs' tails and teeth, and docking cows' tails.
  • The corporation that owns or controls the factory farm also owns the feed company, slaughterhouse, and final stages of production (referred to as vertical integration).
  • The corporation that owns or controls the factory farm also owns the feed company, slaughterhouse, and final stages of production (referred to as vertical integration).
  • Through contract growing, a remote corporation controls all aspects of raising the animals. The livestock owner does not manage the day-to-day operations of the facility. The farmer is left with the risk, debt payments on barns and facilities, waste, and dead animal disposal.
  • A decrease in neighboring property values because of odor and water pollution.
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