Why Are CAFOs Bad For The Environment?

Austen Dip

|

August 6, 2021

cows in a cafo laying in manure

We all love our bacon and eggs for breakfast. Yummm! Have you ever thought about the source of your eggs, bacon, or meat? Unless you picked it up from a local farmer, it probably came from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation or CAFO. CAFOs are bad for their treatment of animals and unsustainable because of their contribution to climate change.

What’s A CAFO?

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations allow livestock farmers to have lots of animals in a small space. Animals in a CAFO are usually kept indoors, with little to no exposure to fresh air or sunlight, which is essential to their overall health and well-being. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA categorizes CAFOs into Large, Medium, and Small sizes, depending on the number of animals housed and waste management and pollutants generated by its operation. CAFOs can usually house up to several hundred to millions of animals in a single location.

CAFOs are sources of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

CAFOs and the Environment

CAFOs produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions that pollute the air and trap the sun’s heat in our atmosphere. These gases are produced by degrading manure and the livestock’s digestive processes.

Depending on the size of the CAFO and the number of animals on the farm, manure production can range between 2,800 tons to 1.6 million tons a year (Government Accountability Office, 2008). It is estimated that US livestock produces 3-20 times more manure than people in the US produce. This amounts to as much as 1.37 billion tons of waste (EPA, 2005).

According to a CDC report, CAFOs contribute to over 7% of Greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. When we think of greenhouse gases, we are primarily concerned about carbon dioxide; however, greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide are 23x and 33x respectively more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Increased animal production from these CAFOs carries a heavy price borne by society at large.

Human Health Risks

In addition to adding to the climate crisis, these emissions pose health risks to humans. Dangerous gases emmited range from hydrogen sulfide and methane to carbon dioxide and particulate matter. These gases affect air quality in communities living near Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Studies have shown that communities—and children in particular—living near CAFOs have higher rates of Asthma.

CAFOs store untreated waste for up to six months in gigantic anaerobic waste storage structures or pits. As a part of the routine disposal process, stored animal waste is applied to farm fields. Spills and overflows from storage tanks and improper or over-application of this waste to farm fields pose a serious health threat. As a result, these wastes can easily pollute both surface and groundwater.

Tell Big Ag: Stop Blocking Climate Action!

In 2020, factory farms spent over $140 MILLION lobbying our elected officials against effective climate change legislation to ensure they can continue to use CAFOs.

Increased CAFO use leads to severe soil, air, and water quality degradation in many communities across the country. Even smaller ones produce a large amount of animal feces and urine.

It’s time to hold companies like these accountable. Will you demand that these corporations stop prioritizing profit over people and STOP lobbying against climate action?

Want to read more? Check out the ACE Blog.

ACE-Social-Media-Profile-Images-1

Austen Dip

Senior Director of Digital Strategy

Austen is ACE’s Director of Digital Strategy. He...

Join our Youth Action Network

More Blog Posts

ACE 101 Title Image (1) 4.08.38 PM

The 101 on the Pennsylvania Gas Leak

A massive environmental and health issue has taken hold in western Pennsylvania. On November 6, 2022, a vent in an underground natural gas storage well began leaking. For more than 11 days, the Rager Mountain facility tried and failed to plug the leak, resulting in millions of cubic feet of natural gas leaking into the atmosphere. If these estimates are accurate, then the leak will have caused 1.1 billion cubic feet in emissions – the equivalent to the greenhouse gasses produced from burning 1,080 rail cars of coal. The leak was not stopped until over a week after it began.

Read More
52229407162_59170ddb0d_o

Being Able to Discuss Climate Change is Half the Battle

When Tori first learned about climate change, she wanted to talk about it. But a conversation about the climate emergency …

Read More
ACE 101 Title Image (1)

Representation Matters: Indigenous Creators and Activists to Follow

Representation matters because it takes just one person to become the next generation’s inspiration. Representation builds community and nothing is more powerful than what we can do when we join forces. For Laxtinx Heritage month, here are a few content creators everyone should know about. Read through this blog and check out each content creator’s social media platform. Don’t forget to follow, subscribe, and leave a like on their posts!

Read More
View More