What is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation?

I’m sure by now many of you have heard of a CAFO, a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, but what many of you may NOT know is roughly 450 billion land animals are now factory farmed every year


99% of all land animals eaten or used to produce milk and eggs in the United States are factory farmed.


Our family has done a great job of eliminating fake foods from our pantry.  If you looked in my kitchen last year you would have seen all the well known brands of crap.  Kelloggs, Lays, Campbells, Eggo, Skippy, well ……you know the rest.   They have since been replaced with real whole foods, grains, and the junk food is gone entirely.

But now I’m learning a lot about where our REAL food is coming from as well as the impact it has on the environment, the animals themselves, and whether or not eating animal products are in our best interest.

I am interested in learning more about animal farms and how they are run and this is some of what I learned:

What is a CAFO?

In the words of our very own United States Environmental Protection Agency, a CAFO is:

“Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland”.  {source}

Your operation is an AFO if:   

  • You confine animals for at least 45 days in a 12-month period, and
  • There’s no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season.


chickensWhat really bothers me are the commercials the marketing people portray how farmers used to farm.  They want us to picture open pastures with the animals grazing and roaming freely on their own.  It just doesn’t exist in these types of factory farms that big corporations own which, unfortunately  dominate our food industry.




The REAL picture

Again, according to the EPA’s website, “…the concentration of the wastes from these animals increases the potential to impacafo1ct air, water, and land quality.  Failures to properly manage manure and wastewater at CAFOs can negatively impact the environment and public health.

Manure and wastewater have the potential to contribute pollutants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones and ammonia, to the environment.”

What does this mean for you?

If you are buying chicken, beef, eggs and dairy from mainstream corporations you are most likely eating the animal (or the byproduct of an animal) who was subjected to these conditions.

Besides the animal rights and whether or not this is cruelty to animals, which I think we can all agree this IS cruelty, you are what you eat.  So if you are eating a chicken that has been raised in a CAFO you are also eating what IT has been eating, which is:

  • GMO corn which is RoundUp Ready from Monsanto
  • Pesticides and residue from manure, and
  • The  antibiotics they have been pumped with due to their living conditions

Any anyone who wants to make healthy choices about what they eat MUST know how these animals are fed to become market ready because what THEY eat YOU eat.

In its 2008 report on CAFOs, GAO estimated that a swine operation with 800,000 hogs would generate more than 1.6 million tons of manure annually—more than one and a half times the sanitary waste produced by the about 1.5 million residents of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in one year {source: EPA.GOV}

But the conversation doesn’t end here.  What are your thoughts about concentrated animal feeding operations?  Once you’ve become aware of the living conditions of these animals will it affect your purchases of meat or dairy?  How so?


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