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.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

As Hurricane Dorian bears down on North Carolina, the storm’s flood waters threaten once again to spread millions of tons of animal waste from factory farms throughout the state’s eastern coastal plain.

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News Release
Friday, June 7, 2019

The city of Toledo, Ohio, is spending an astounding $54 million on a new treatment facility to remove contaminants, including toxins produced by algae blooms, from its drinking water.

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Key Issues:
AgMag
Article
Thursday, June 6, 2019

In recent months, all 50 states have enacted so-called right-to-farm laws that seek to block citizens from holding industrial animal factory farms and other large-scale agriculture operations accountable for pollution, according to the National Agricutural Law Center.

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Key Issues:
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Unregulated animal factory farms are funneling nutrient-rich pollution into Lake Erie, feeding an enormous toxic algae bloom each summer, according to a new investigation by the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

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News Release
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

North Carolina, a state known for the devastating environmental and public health impacts of industrial-scale hog production, now has more than twice as many poultry factory farms as swine operations, according to a new investigation from the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance.

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News Release
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Although North Carolinians’ attention has rightly been focused on the state’s dense concentration of factory swine farms – concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which produce 10 billion gallons of bacteria-laden, liquefied hog waste per year – the state’s poultry industry has grown dramatically with little notice.

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Reports & Consumer Guides
Thursday, December 13, 2018

North Carolina’s dense concentration of approximately 6,500 confined animal feeding operations, often called CAFOs, annually generate two million tons of dry chicken waste and 10 billion gallons of liquified hog waste, enough to fill more than 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

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Reports & Consumer Guides
Thursday, December 13, 2018

Court documents obtained by the Environmental Working Group detail shockingly lax oversight by state inspectors of North Carolina’s animal factory farms.

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News Release
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Hurricane Florence’s torrential rains pelted areas of North Carolina that are home to more than 1,500 industrial animal operations with more than 1,000 nearby animal waste storage cesspools. These operations have the potential to annually produce as much as four billion gallons of wet swine waste and 400,000 tons of dry poultry waste, according to an exclusive analysis by EWG and Waterkeeper Alliance.

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News Release
Friday, September 21, 2018

Newly released satellite images show the devastating flooding contaminated by pollution from Hurricane Florence’s pounding of the Carolinas, including waste from the hundreds of industrial-scale hog and poultry farms in North Carolina’s coastal plain. Photos from the U.S. Geological Survey starkly demonstrate the consequences of concentrating confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in low-lying areas along sensitive flood plains.

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News Release
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Residents of communities near industrial-scale hog farms in North Carolina face an increased risk of potentially deadly diseases, Duke University scientists reported in a study released this week.

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News and Analysis
Article
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

When Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina in 2016, it flooded more than 140 feces-strewn industrial-scale swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with liquid hog waste and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields.

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News Release
Thursday, May 11, 2017

Scientific tests found abundant hog feces on homes and lawns, and in the air of private properties near big hog farms in North Carolina – proof that factory farms are exposing nearby communities to dangerous fecal bacteria, endangering the health of tens of thousands of citizens. Despite this disgusting evidence, state lawmakers are moving to strip citizens of their right to fair compensation through so-called nuisance suits against concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

 

Photo credit Waterkeeper Alliance

 

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News Release
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The long-held property rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians are at stake in the latest round of the ongoing battle between state lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper.

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News Release
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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Key Issues:
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

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