The Environmental Impacts Of Factory Farming

Jazmine Bahr · Jan 30 2016

It is important to familiarize yourself with the environmental factors that cause concern with the modern day practices of commercial agriculture.

The farming industry does its best to keep the harmful effects on the environment a secret. Our water supply is being contaminated, our forests are being destroyed, and our fragile climate are all suffering due to this industry. Billions of dollars each year are given to government funded farmers to maintain commercial crops and mass-produced livestock. These farms have an end goal of increasing revenue with very little respect for the environment.

One of the biggest environmental issues is the commercial meat industry. These animals are kept in what is known as a CAFO (Commercial Animal Feeding Operations). There is an estimated 10 billion animals per year held in these facilities. They are packed in like sardines with no room to for movement and constant exposure to filth and disease. The farmers then administer antibiotics to these animals to prevent them from getting sick and dying. The problem is that 75% of these antibiotics go undigested and end up in their urine and feces.

The manure from these animals is kept in lagoons the size of several football fields. Livestock around America produces 1 million tonnes of manure daily. These lagoons frequently have leaks and spills that run off into the environment; most importantly, into the water supply for human consumption. When the waste lagoons get full farmers disperse the excrement to surrounding areas in effort to cut costs on appropriately transporting it away. This furthers the problem of contaminants infecting the water supply.

The negative effects these commercial operations have on the water supply is tremendous. Not only are CAFO’s contaminating the water supply with animal waste, but they are also responsible for mass amounts of water depletion. The facilities use water to clean these huge plants, as well as hydrating and cooling billions of livestock yearly. It takes 1,581 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef – approximately 100 showers.

Another large issue that is affecting us globally is the deforestation that takes place to sustain these CAFOS. Over 260 acres have been cleared in the United States to make room for crops to harvest livestock feed. With the removal of these forests we raise CO2 levels significantly, possibly affecting global warming up to 50%. Only a very small percentage of this cleared land is being used to make crops for human consumption.

Mono crops of wheat, corn, rice, and soy make up the majority of these clear-cut forests. The danger with mass mono crops is the fact that these crops grow very well in the current climate conditions. If the climate changes enough that these crops are no longer able to grow we could be looking at potential famine. Ironically, these operations play a huge hand in changing the climate. 37% of methane gas comes from factory farms; 20 times the amount contributed from CO2.

The environmental issues we face in the future due to these modern day farming practices are very real. It is easy to turn a blind eye to the problem, as there is a major disconnect when perusing the grocery store. Educating yourself about where your food is being sourced from is very important. Supporting local sustainable farming is important, not just for you, but to help these smaller organizations survive against the conglomerate commercial farming industry.