Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations?


I saw a commercial this morning for Perdue Chicken that portrayed happy birds, drinking Perdue’s “oregano water”. This advertisement emphasized the message that Perdue’s Chicken is antibiotic free.  Here is the like below:


This commercial I found particularly troublesome. It represented this corporate, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) as a healthy, safe and clean environment to raise chickens. Purdue is advertising a complete façade of their actual practices. Despite, the recent claims by the company to raise healthier happier chickens by adopting new practices it is simply not possible when animals are raised in a factory operation. Yes, these new practices can be put in place but it is difficult to maintain them on such a large scale. The NPR article below explains the new efforts by Perdue.

Perdue and similar companies continue to grow as demand for meat rises. The issues that stem from CAFO’s effect the entire environment. These operations are corporate profit driven machines that have the ability to produce massive amounts of food. Unfortunately, the majority of average consumers do not know what a CAFO is or where the meat in their frozen chicken nuggets actually comes from. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a CAFO as: “A CAFO is an operation with more than 1000 animal units (an animal unit is defined as an animal equivalent of 1000 pounds live weight and equates to 1000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 swine weighing more than 55 lbs, 125 thousand broiler chickens, or 82 thousand laying hens or pullets) confined on site for more than 45 days during the year.” The number of CAFOs in the United States is rising; with an estimate 80% of all meat products consumed in the US sourced from these factories. Currently, CAFOs environmental impact is well researched but under regulated due to inconsistencies in the federal definition, which make regulations difficult to enforce. It is crucial for policy to better regulate CAFOs or else face increasingly negative environment impacts.

Impacts and Regulation

There has been adequate research conducted on CAFOs effect on the environment to soundly prove negative impact. Specifically, research has been conducted analyzing policy that guides industrial food regulation. The prevalence of factory farming operations and corporate influence impose overwhelming pressure on policy in the food system, creating myriad adversities for present day and the future. Transition of society’s food culture from local farm to table to corporate industry is evident in all sectors of production. Increasing demand in relation to the government’s ability to provide quality and safety control precautions for consumer food products highlights effects of these changes.  The future of food production and consumption is propelled by an irrepressible need to sustain a constant surplus of food. Growing populations and food supply demand conceal problems with food policy for the forthcoming future, by reducing regulation to keep up with production. The future environmental impact of CAFO greatly depends on current decisions of policy makers and consumer food choices. Currently, the fragmentation of the federal food system is the cause for inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and the inefficient use of resources. Regulation under new modern pressure affects creation of policy on the environment. Since the establishment of CAFO or “factory farms”, the EPA has changed definitions and regulation standards on multiple occasions. The term CAFO is now frequently used to describe both regulated and unregulated facilities. This wide application of the term creates inconsistencies in policy making. A lack of universal regulation allows corporate farms to use regulation to their advantage and conveniently disregard costly safety and sanitation precautions.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Waste Issue 

Cargrill, America’s largest beef producer operates a feedlot in Texas with 86,000 heads of cattle. Imagine how much waste 86,000 cattle produce. Waste from operations like this is difficult to manage. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that confined farm animals generate more than 450 million tons of manure annually, three times more raw waste than generated by Americans annually. The exorbitant amount of animal waste from CAFOs imposes huge risk on water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, the EPA estimates that states with high concentrations of CAFOs experience on average 20 to 30 serious water quality problems per year as a result of manure management issues. It is critical that waste from CAFOs be managed immediately. The more considerable the waste issue, that more difficult it becomes to control.

What to do?

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations control the majority of the meat in our food system. As a consumer who eats meat it is inevitable to run into products that come from a CAFO. It is up to us as consumers to be knowledgeable of these products, especially the ones we consume and the impacts that our consumption has. Society’s demand is what drives production. Eat what you please, just think about where it comes from and the positive and negative bearing each product has.


“Animal Feeding Operations Final Rules.” Environmental Protection Agency, 30 June 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

“CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (2008).” Union of Concerned Scientists, Apr. 2008. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

Alexander, A., & Hall, K. (2008, September 30). The Cruelest Cuts. Retrieved September 23, 2016.




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4 responses to “

  1. amyquandt

    Love that commercial! Pretty funny. Did you find any statistics about how many of their CAFOs are adopting these new practices? Are they mandatory changes or just suggestions?


  2. Emilie Adamovic

    I find this really interesting. That commercial should be illegal because anyone who knows anything about how Perdue raises their animals, knows that is not remotely how it is, but I guess playing off of people’s naivety is part of corporate America. I am interested to see what things will look like at Perdue in a couple months. I would be curious to know of all the different livestock and poultry, which one has the least percentage of CAFOs as their main source of production.


    • katieorlady

      From my past research the industry is majority chicken and cattle but cafos are growing rapidly across the globe. I know it will be interesting to see how successfully Perdue will implement these changes. I’m not sure how realistic it is for Perdue to keep up with he increased cost of production if the company does not see growing sales from a widening consumer base after the changes.


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