Animal feeding operations are categorized by the number of animal units they house. Animal units are based on weight, with one unit equi-valent to about 1,000 lbs. of live animal weight (e.g., one animal unit equals one cow, 2.5 swine, or 100 chickens; EPA 2023).
State and federal regulations increase with CAFO size. Animal feeding operations with less than 1,000 animal units are not subject to regulations and do not require permits. There are over 500 registered CAFOs in MO; most are swine or poultry operations (MO DNR 2023).
There are few studies that investigate the economic costs and benefits of CAFOs across stakeholder groups.
Meat/Dairy Producers and Packagers. CAFO owners and multinational meat-packing companies can leverage economies of scale to reduce costs and maximize profit (Ikerd 1998).
Homeowners. In several states, including Missouri, property values near CAFOs are 20-40% lower than comparable properties further from CAFOs (Merchant 2018).
The production and management of animal manure in CAFOs can cause several negative health effects.
Collectively, U.S. CAFOs produce more than 40x the amount of biosolid waste than the U.S. population annually (Graham 2010).
Air Quality. Large volumes of manure in CAFOs can decompose and degrade nearby air quality.
Water Quality. Poorly managed manure can overload soil and water (surface and ground) with nutrients and contaminants, negatively impacting drinking water quality (Copeland 2006, Burkholder 2007, Merchant 2018).
Disease Transmission. Intensive animal feed-ing operations such as CAFOs are estimated to have been the origin for 50% of the animal-transmitted diseases that have emerged in human populations (Marchese 2022).
The primary ecological impacts from CAFOs result from excess nutrients and contaminants from manure entering waterways.
Removes oxygen from water. High nitrogen and phosphorus levels in aquatic ecosystems can harm aquatic life by removing oxygen from water (Mallin 2003).
Disrupts reproduction and reduces bio-diversity. Antibiotics, hormones, sediment, and nutrients from manure can disrupt the reproduction of some species and reduce the total number of species found in nearby waterways (Burkholder 2007, Merchant 2018).
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Burkholder, J., Libra, B., Weyer, P., Heathcote, S., Kolpin, D., Thorne, P. S., & Wichman, M. (2007). Impacts of waste from concentrated animal feeding operations on water quality. Environmental health perspectives, 115(2), 308-312.
Copeland, C., & Resources, Science, and Industry Division. (2006). Animal waste and water quality: EPA regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Washington, DC, USA: Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress.
Fiala, N. (2008). Meeting the demand: an estimation of potential future greenhouse gas emissions from meat production. Ecological economics, 67(3), 412-419.
Godfray, H. C. J., Aveyard, P., Garnett, T., Hall, J. W., Key, T. J., Lorimer, J., ... & Jebb, S. A. (2018). Meat consumption, health, and the environment. Science, 361(6399), eaam5324.
Graham, J. P., & Nachman, K. E. (2010). Managing waste from confined animal feeding operations in the United States: the need for sanitary reform. Journal of water and health, 8(4), 646-670.
Halweil, B. (2008). Meat production continues to rise. Worldwatch Institute website, 20.
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Hribar, C. (2010). Understanding concentrated animal feeding operations and their impact on communities. National Association of Local Boards of Health. Centers for Disease Control.
Ikerd, John E., “Sustainable Agriculture: An Alternative Model for Future Pork Producers,” in The Industrialization of Agriculture, Jeffrey S. Royer and Richard T. Rogers, eds., Ashgate Press, Brookfield, VT, 1998, pp. 281-283.
Lee, C. G. (2021). Industrial Animal Agriculture in the Pandemic Spotlight. ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section Animal Law Committee Newsletter, Winter/Spring.
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Marchese, A., & Hovorka, A. (2022). Zoonoses Transfer, Factory Farms and Unsustainable Human–Animal Relations. Sustainability, 14(19), 12806.
Merchant, J. A., Naleway, A. L., Svendsen, E. R., Kelly, K. M., Burmeister, L. F., Stromquist, A. M., ... & Chrischilles, E. A. (2005). Asthma and farm exposures in a cohort of rural Iowa children. Environmental health perspectives, 113(3), 350-356.
Merchant, J. A., & Osterberg, D. (2018). The Explosion of CAFOs in Iowa and Its Impact on Water Quality and Public Health. Iowa Policy Project.
Sigurdarson, S. T., & Kline, J. N. (2006). School proximity to concentrated animal feeding operations and prevalence of asthma in students. Chest, 129(6), 1486-1491.
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Weida, W. J. (2001). A summary of the regional economic effects of CAFOs. Department of Economics, the Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, 21.