Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities
Livestock farming has undergone a signi cant transformation in the past few decades. Production
has shifted from smaller, family-owned farms to large farms that often have corporate contracts. Most meat and dairy products now are produced on large farms with single species buildings or open-air
pens (MacDonald & McBride, 2009). Modern farms have also become much more ef cient. Since 1960, milk production has doubled, meat production has tripled, and egg production has quadrupled (Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Farm Production, 2009). Improvements to animal breeding, mechanical innovations, and the introduction of specially formulated feeds and animal pharmaceuticals have all increased the ef ciency and productivity of animal agriculture. It also takes much less time to raise
a fully grown animal. For example, in 1920, a chicken took approximately 16 weeks to reach 2.2 lbs., whereas now they can reach 5 lbs. in 7 weeks (Pew, 2009).
New technologies have allowed farmers to reduce costs, which mean bigger pro ts on less land and capital. The current agricultural system rewards larger farms with lower costs, which results in greater pro t and more incentive to increase farm size.
AFO vs. CAFO
A CAFO is a speci c type of large-scale industrial agricultural facility that raises animals, usually at high-density, for the consumption of meat, eggs, or milk. To be considered a CAFO, a farm must rst be categorized as an animal feeding operation (AFO). An AFO is a lot or facility where animals are kept con ned and fed or maintained for 45 or more days per year, and crops, vegetation, or forage growth are not sustained over a normal growing period (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2009). CAFOs are classi ed by the type and number of animals they contain, and the way they discharge waste into the water supply. CAFOs are AFOs that contain at least a certain number of animals, or have a number of animals that fall within a range and have waste materials that come into contact with the water supply. This contact can either be through a pipe that carries manure or wastewater to surface water, or by animal contact with surface water that runs through their con ned area. (See Appendix A)