Factory farms tend to move in and out of public consciousness. People are briefly alarmed at the news of antibiotic resistant bacteria Or epidemics. But they continue to buy cheap meat at the grocery store as the headlines change to other topics. CAFOs, the official term for industrial-scale meat production facilities, have serious implications for animal rights, environmental pollution, and even environmental justice. Although CAFOs produce almost all the meat consumed in America, consumers can find better options.
What is a CAFO?
CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (or sometimes Confined Animal Feeding Operation). In a revealing detail, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systemrather than the FDA, legally defines CAFOs.
It defines CAFO such as any animal feeding operation where:
- Animals are kept and fed for 45 days or more in a 12 month period, and
- Crops or vegetation are not maintained during the growing season on any part of the facility.
CAFOs are categorized by the number of animals kept, regardless of density, and by the method of sewage disposal.
THE first CAFOs developed in the 1950s to raise chickens. The practice spread to the pork and beef industries in the 1970s, although the EPA feedlots identified as point sources for pollution in the Clean Water Act of 1972. CAFOs became standard in the late 20e century. In 2011, four companies produces 81% of the cows, 73% of the sheep, 50% of the chickens and 60% of the pigs consumed in America. CAFOs have just become more focused Since. Some species, such as beef cattle, spend only a short period in confinement before slaughter. Others, like chickens and pigs, can spend their entire lives confined.
CAFOs can harm the health and welfare both animals and people. Proponents argue that confined animals receive consistent, quality nutrition and protection from extreme weather conditions. But the size of the containment zones, regulated at the level At the state level, can be appallingly small. It can be difficult to quantify the impacts of boredom and the stress of confinement, but they are very real. Stress behaviors like tail biting resulted in routine mooring piglet tails on US hog farms. And stressed chickens engaging in harmful feather pecking behaviors that commercial poultry farms prevent with the painful and much-criticized practice of beak trimming.
Close contact in crowded neighborhoods greatly increases the risk of infections. This has led to the widespread preventive use of antibiotics (which are also used to stimulate growth) in CAFOs. Overuse of antibiotics contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, making outbreaks more difficult to treat. It also increases the risk for humansbecause many bacteria found on livestock (such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter) can cause foodborne illness in humans.
Most of the environmental problems associated with CAFOs are related to the huge amounts of manure generated in a relatively small space. A large CAFO with 800,000 pigs could produce more than 1.6 million tons of waste a year. That’s one and a half times more than the annual wastewater produced by the city of Philadelphia.
As evidenced by the regulatory structure, water pollution is the primary concern. Cities have sewage treatment facilities, but CAFO manure is collected in the open. lagoon, where the solids settle to the bottom and decompose anaerobically. The nutrient-rich liquid layer is applied to fields as fertilizer. Soil application requires appropriate weather conditions and can lead to over-fertilization, contamination of stormwater and groundwater with nitrogen, phosphorus and pathogens. Lagoon Chess dispose of untreated waste in nearby areas.
The air surrounding CAFOs can be polluted with ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and particulates, all of which pose human health risks to nearby farm workers and residents. Since CAFOs are geographically concentrated, a few communities are disproportionately affected by them. THE impacts on environmental justice of CAFOs affect public health in low-income rural communities and communities of color.
Avoid meat CAFO
Most meat in the United States is grown on factory farms. Of course, following a vegan diet eliminates the problem of animal protein supply. But meat eaters can find humanely raised meats and more sustainable meat choices. Some grass-fed beef skips the feedlot en route to your plate; durable turkeys are available if you search hard enough; and you could even raise your own backyard chickens for meat or eggs. If you can’t grow your own, getting to know your local farmer at the farmer’s market or a specialty butcher is the best way to source meat.
To ensure that all meat is grown in a more humane way, let your congressional representative know that you support the Pregnant Swine Act (PIGS), HR 2939, to prohibit gestation crates for breeding sows. Check your state regulations and contact your state legislators to support human standards. Even if you live in a state where CAFOs aren’t common, your state might, like Washington, ban the sale of inhumanely grown produce, regardless of where the animal was raised.