A CAFO is a factory farming technique of raising livestock with the highest output and lowest cost. They are also known as ILOs, or intensive livestock operations. The EPA defines a CAFO as a stable where animals are held in high density for 45 days or more within a 12 month period, and there is not sufficient vegetative matter to absorb waste marital (EPA). Today most meat in America is raised in CAFOs. Contrary to popular belief some CAFOs hold animals outside as well as inside. Allot of people know about the animal cruelty associated with CAFOs, but there are also a plethora of other devastating effects that they cause. CAFOs have a detrimental effect on the environment, the quality of food and the neighboring communities around them.
A CAFO is all part of a system known as industrialized farming. In this system food is produced by large agribusinesses. It is very different from the concept of a family farm that most children grow up learning about. It all started with the agricultural revolution. The discovery of farming is vital to the way a society functions. It was this development that allowed humans to congregate into civilizations during the Neolithic, around 10,00 years ago. Previously people could only band in small hunter-gatherer tribes that where nonstationary. People could never settle in one place for too long, because the lack of food prevented it. This system of urbanization gave rise to the Industrial Revolution. Around the 18th century major changes in agriculture came about because of the industrial revolution. Manual labor could now be done by machines, which increased productivity greatly. Urbanization increased further, because it was now easier to attain a job in the city. The modern capitalist economy was formed as people grew more and more distant from where their food originated. Capitalism encourages the mass production of commodities by the use of technology at the most efficient rate. The invention of synthetic fertilizers, such as nitrogen and phosphorus allowed crops to be farmed more intensively. Vitamin supplements allowed livestock to be raised even when there was no pasture to graze on. Antibiotics where the last key that facilitated CAFOs. With the use of antibiotics animals could now be housed in enormous quantities over a small area without the risk of disease. Additionally genetic modification, hormones and diet are utilized in producing a greater amount of consumable product per animal. The present consumer based economy drove food production to be overseen by large cooperation that endeavor to make products as cheaply and efficiently as possible (Pollan).
CAFOs are the cause of many detrimental environmental effects. Animal agriculture is the leading source of global greenhouse emissions. For those of you doubter who still don't believe in global warming know that the hottest five years over the past 100 years occurred in the last decade of the century(Koneswaran, Gowril. Nierenberg, Danielle 578-582). Manure causes phosphorus and nitrogen as well as antibiotic and veterinary drug runoff that can pollute bodies of water. 2/3 of agricultural land is used to grow feed crops for livestock. Imagine how much land could be saves if the crops went directly for human consumption. Cattle fed on the high protein diet of corn and soybeans can produce twice as much methane as those fed on a grass diet (Koneswaran, Gowril. Nierenberg, Danielle 578-582). Animal waste runs into streams, and ultimately the ocean. This waste creates algae booms that sucks up the oxygen out of the water and kill all other wildlife. Vast areas of the ocean have now been converted to “dead zones” because of this (Now, it’s Not Personal! 12-20). Hormones and drugs used on the farm animals can also leach out into the environment, and cause altercations to the wildlife (Burkholder, JoAnn 308-312).
CAFOs are hazardous to human health, as well as to the environment. Pathogens are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics in part because of their overuse in factory farms. Fatty grain fed beef can contribute to heart attacks, stokes, diabetes and cancer in those who consume it (Now, it’s Not Personal! 12-20). Dust from factory farms can cause respiratory problems and asthma (Heekderik, Dick 298-302). Some scientists link growth hormones to early puberty in females. Unsanitary conditions in which animals are raised contribute to a high pathogen content in the resulting meat. Disease outbreaks, such as swine flu, mad cow disease, E. coli and avian flu can be traced back to the poor sanitary conditions and mass distribution process of factory farms (Mirabelli, Maria 591-596).
Despite all these faults CAFOs are still the standard method of producing meat because of their positive aspects. Intensive agriculture can produce greater quantities of food at a lower cost to the consumer. Many people argue that CAFOs are necessary to feed the worlds growing population. Free range livestock cannot compete with the mass yield that CAFOs can provide to feed everyone. CAFOs also provide jobs for individuals who have little education and can often get jobs nowhere else. However these benefits do not outweigh the ultimate cost of factory farming, it’s not a sustainable method of producing food. It takes 85% more energy to produce factory farm meat then organically raised meat (Koneswaran, Gowril. Nierenberg, Danielle 578-582). Money is only saved in the short term, because humanity as a whole will have to pay for waste treatment, pollution, land usage and medical care in the long run.
Farming doesn’t have to be so detrimental. People can take steps to change the way our food is produced so that it does not have such a devastating effect on the environment, human health and the lives of animals. Anyone can reduce their consumption of meat, eggs and milk. Historically human kind has gotten by eating meat only on rare occasions. It was only until recently that animal products became available at every meal (Pollan). You don’t have to cut meat completely out of your diet if you don’t want to support factory farms. Animal products can be purchased by local family farmers who used less gas to get the food to you then mass distributed meat would use. Not all food labeled organic, cage free, or free range is necessarily environmental conscious (Pollan). The government also hires inspectors to monitor farms and insure they meet certain environmentally safe standards. These products are marked with a seal labeled USDA certified organic (Farm Aid). Another thing you can do to stop factory farms is to take legal action. Sign petitions and porpoise banning the use of antibiotics and growth hormones to the government. These things are already illegal in the EU. Once these two things are illuminated animals can no longer be overcrowded or drugged to grow beyond their normal limit. It is time for the US leave these barbaric ways behind, too. The EPA and world health organization have working to stop factory farming by means of the law. They have already filed hundreds of law suits on big agribusinesses for failing to properly dispose of animal waste, violating the Clean Air and Water Acts, and putting employees in unsafe work environments (EPA).
CAFOs are a very real problem in our area. They are especially common in Missouri. Meany large corporations, such as Premium Standard Farms have many locations throughout the Midwest. Not supporting these factory farms is just a little thing you can do that will result in a whole lot of good.