Sunday, March 7, 2010

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations


One of the most environmentally degrading and psychologically disturbing industries in the United States, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), is consistently ignored by the media, causes extensive environmental degradation, and is wasting millions of government money in subsidies. Factory farming is the process of confining animals in unnatural conditions so as to maximize the amount of meat these industries can produce at the lowest cost. The amount of waste produced by so many animals in such a limited space often causes nearby lakes or rivers to become contaminated from runoff. These feeding operations are also very water intensive themselves, nearly 8% of human water use goes toward animal production. This does not include the amount of water that is needed to produce the crops for animal feed. The incredible amount of manure that so many animals create also emits greenhouse gases, such as methane, which contribute to global warming. The land needed to grow crops to feed these animals also has a huge impact on the environment mainly in the form of soil degradation. Farmers now use genetically modified organisms which can grow on soil that does not need to be replenished by growing different crops every couple of years. This ensures that the nutrients the crops are taking from the soil are not getting replenished and this often leads to soil desertification. These crops, primarily corn and soy beans, are heavily subsidized by the government and wastes millions of dollars annually to support an industry that is inefficient to begin with. The way in which these animals are mass produced is inconsistent with how the environment was structured to create meat and how humans were meant to consume meat. There needs to be an immediate change in the structure of governmental subsidies to encourage growth in industries that have positive impacts on its citizens.

Reference: Singer, Peter, and Jim Mason. The Ethics of What We Eat. Rodale, 2006. Print.


  1. How is the industry ineffecient? it supplies millions of people with meat at much lower prices. the problem with with organic and local growing industries is that these industries would never be able to produce enough food to feed everyone. say what you will about mass meat production but it allows millions of people to eat food, that could not afford those items and would otherwise have to eat cheaper food, like candy and soda. there is also no evidence that says humans can only such and such amount of meat, many cultures around the world eat an entirely meat diet, humans are very addaptable to thier enviroments and can pretty much eat whatever, to a certain extant.

  2. These animals were not meant to be pumped full of steroids or eat the feed they are given.
    Humans can only adapt to a certain point. Hispanics and many black people are lactose intolerant, many people in arctic regions can't digest dextrose and celiac disease is a growing problem. Humans really can't eat whatever they want. Meat is expensive regardless of where it comes from many families can't even afford the cheap stuff.

  3. Further, CAFO animals aren't fed diets that they're used to. I believe Food Inc says that because cows are given corn based diets that the likelihood of developing e. coli goes up.
    And another point is what do CAFO's do with all of the mass waste generated by their animals? They put them in giant lined containers. All of those hormones and steroids and antibiotics stew together with a bunch of nutrients. Even if the waste was to go towards fertilizing crops, I'd be nervous to put feces with such chemicals in them near open land. If something got into our waterways in mass quantities, we might well be in trouble.

  4. With the transportation necessary to ship the meat products from large scale industrial farms to supermarkets around the nation combined with the immense amount of methane produced by these industrial livestock farms, it is unquestionable that industrial farming can be a major contributer to climate change. Another major problem associated with large industrial farming is the quality and healthiness of the meat. The cows at these industrial farms are almost always grain fed. The cows stomach is evolved to digest grass, not corn. Feeding corn to cows essentially acidifies the cows stomach, disrupting its metabolism and producing a breeding ground for e. coli. These cows have to be injected with significant amounts of antibiotics just to be able to survive a corn based diet. Although corn production subsidization has definitely allowed for America to produce great quantities of food at very low prices, it has come at the cost of our health. These large industrial farms are producing abnormally fatty, antibiotic laden meat, and the high fructose corn syrup that dominates most American's diets has contributed significantly to the American obesity problem.

    I suggest checking out Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dillema" or watching the documentary feature "King Corn" if you're interested in this topic; both provide some really interesting information.

  5. We can be proud of Colorado, specifically Warren Monfort of Greeley, for making CAFOs a viable industry. When he starting supplying the biggest industries (i.e. fast food) with meat, it required that the feedlots grow with the scale of fast food. We can blame our (America's) demand for cheap meat for the rise of CAFOs. When people stop craving Big Macs, maybe the necessity of CAFOs will diminish.

  6. There is definitely a connection between the CAFOs and obesity in the U.S. The mass production of meat may feed millions of people, but is this really a good thing? Red meats are shown to be a major reason behind obesity, with lots of sat fat and sodium. almost 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese. If fast food wasn't available, then people would resort to eating corn and rice and maybe even growing their own food. These practices are only harming the American people and should be regulated like tobacco. The meat industry is linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and lots more. I have even heard of studies that show how a diet with lots of meat discourages physical activity and actually lowers endurance. You can see this in childhood obesity and its sad (and somewhat funny if you ever have seen the Maury show "100 pound baby"). This is also causing economic issues like an increase in healthcare costs. All of these issues, including the environmental impacts of the CAFOs, go hand in hand and perhaps changing a few things will work out other issues as well.

  7. To respond to the appalling conditions animals in these CAFO-based facilities face, it may be worth considering 'artificial' foods, including meats. These laboratory-grown foods do not require living hosts to provide the meat, yet could provide the same (and even improved) nutritional value. While this is controversial, mass-production of artificial foods could become a viable alternative given exponentially rising global population and a respect for animal welfare.


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