Factory Farms

Industrial Animal Agriculture: CAFOs

Over the past few decades, industrial animal agriculture in the U.S. has grown rapidly, with increasingly more animals housed in fewer, larger buildings. Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, house thousands of animals in the same facility.

CAFOs’ impacts on land, water and air have serious consequences for human health.

Millions of acres of U.S. cropland are fertilized with manure from cattle, poultry, dairy and swine operations. This waste – which contains chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus and can carry nasty pathogens like E. coli and antibiotic-resistant bacteria – often runs off the landscape when it rains, contaminating tap water, triggering outbreaks of toxic algae and threatening fish and other wildlife.

To compound the problem, certain areas of the country provide easy access to feed and processing plants, leading to new CAFOs being built in areas already crowded with animal agriculture. Dense pockets of animal operations make manure disposal challenging, leading to oversaturation of nearby fields with nutrients that often wind up in our waterways or groundwater.

Airborne pathogens are also a concern. Hazardous health effects from fecal matter, odors and gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide often occur several miles away from a large CAFO.

To help policymakers, consumers and others understand the extent to which industrial animal agriculture is changing the American landscape, EWG is using satellite imagery coupled with government data to locate CAFOs precisely in hotspots around the nation.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

North Carolina legislators are rushing to pass a bill that would severely restrict the traditional property rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians suffering from the pollution and stench of factory farms, an EWG investigation based on satellite imagery revealed.

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Key Issues:
News Release
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The legislation would cap the amount of damages that could be sought in so-called nuisance suits brought by owners of property near concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

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Reports & Consumer Guides
Friday, November 4, 2016

Hurricane Matthew's rampage through North Carolina's coastal plain flooded more than 140 feces-strewn swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with hog waste and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields, an analysis by EWG and Waterkeeper Alliance reveals.

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News Release
Friday, November 4, 2016

When high water breaches animal barns, waste lagoons or fields with applied manure, the nearby surface water becomes toxic.

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Reports & Consumer Guides
Thursday, June 23, 2016

Manure pits that hold livestock and poultry waste give off foul-smelling toxic air pollutants that can be deadly to farmworkers and local residents, who often are powerless to defend the health of their families from the noxious emissions.

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AgMag
Article
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A first-of-its-kind interactive map revealing the locations of more than 6,500 concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, across the state of North Carolina was released today by Waterkeeper Alliance, North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations and Environmental Working Group. 

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News Release
Friday, June 17, 2016

Days after the United Nations released startling new data showing that agriculture’s contribution to climate change is getting worse, the House and Senate Appropriations committees approved spending bills that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from monitoring and regulating greenhouse gas emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

 

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AgMag
Article
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

As summer approaches, so do the toxic algal blooms that plague Lake Erie every year, killing fish and making the water too dangerous to swim in.

 

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AgMag
Article
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Raising animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is bad for public health and the environment.

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AgMag
Article
Friday, April 26, 2013

Largely out of the public view, government officials, environmental groups and agricultural interests have been battling over public access to data about the workings of the crowded animal feedlots known as CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations.

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AgMag
Article
Thursday, May 27, 2010

On April 23, the Environmental Working Group’s Rebecca Sutton, PhD, submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency articulating EWG’s support for the Agency's proposed pollution controls. Her letter also urged the EPA to step up its efforts to combat one of the biggest threats to the bay — phosphorous and nitrogen runoff from agriculture — as it goes forward with regulatory and enforcement strategies.

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AgMag
Article

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