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  Green Earth








No swimming in these waters





Fish kill





Election time

Factory farm: the CAFO

CAFO (pronounced KAY-foh) stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation and is the term used by government and industry for what we normal people refer to as a factory farm. When flying, if you have seen rows of many white buildings close to each other, and perhaps one or more weird-colored lagoons, you have probably seen a CAFO, and, fortunately for you, from far away enough that you cannot smell the stench.

CAFOs attempt to mimic the high volume assembly line production methods of factories with live animals; thus, the term "factory farm." Concentrated is what it is all about. The idea is to place as many animals (chickens, pigs, cattle, etc.) as possible into the smallest space where they will fit, fatten them to market weight, or maximize egg or milk production as fast as possible with the least amount of labor. The animals barely have room to move and no chance to pasture. Efficiency and speed is what matters most. Almost no movement or freedom reduces the animals' energy consumption, which leaves more calories available to become flesh. And the animals live in deplorable conditions under incredible stress.

Fortunately, there are solutions available and they are not that difficult to obtain. You just need to take a little time to learn about them. If you consume meat, poultry or dairy, take a look here

Cow or not, would you like to eat in the same space where you walk around in your own excrement? Do you want to eat the meat from that cow? If you buy your meat in a supermarket, that is most likely what you are doing.

From sheer boredom and lack of space, CAFO piglets chew off the tails of the pig next to them; the grower's solution: snip off the piglets tails. Chickens can't turn around or spread their wings. These animals barely ever see sunlight or get a chance to cavort on the ground like Mother Nature intended.

Animals raised on CAFOs are not treated like living, sentient beings: to Industrial Ag, they are just objects -- assets that exist only to produce profits for the few big corporations that control the food supply. These are truly "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations". It is not by accident that one can think of the animals as prisoners or slaves housed in concentration camps.

Thanks to these operations, we are getting cheap food - but this has consequences like:

  • Agricultural pesticide contamination to streams, ground water and wells, which impacts the safety of agricultural workers.
  • Loss of water quality in rivers, streams and ground water due to nitrogen and phosphorus contamination (which contributes to dramatic shifts in aquatic ecosystems and hypoxic zones.
  • A decline in nutrient density of many vegetable crops, which means possible tradeoffs between yield and nutrient content.
  • Negative impact on soil quality through erosion, compaction, pesticide application and excessive fertilization.
  • Large emission of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

The above is just a partial list. A couple more examples of actual factory farm-caused problems:

  • Many fish kills. One particularly bad instance: In 1991, pollution claimed more than a billion (yes, billion with a b) fish in the Neuse estuary between New Bern and Minnesott Beach (North Carolina).
  • The "aroma" of factory farm lagoons is so stinky, it has led to 50% loss of property values in some areas. People who farmed on their properties for many years -- or for two-three generations -- have been forced to leave their homes permanently because of the stench of these CAFOs and the resulting health problems.

So, even if you don't care about the welfare of the animals, or about people living in rural areas, or about eating meat from a cow that walked in shit, consider that all these factors impact your and your family's well-being. Antibiotics, hormones and other things you can't even pronounce end up in the meats and dairy you buy in your state-of-the-art supermarket in the highly developed modern city where you live.

As I have stated elsewhere on these pages, I am not a scientist, so I pay no attention to Big Ag when they keep saying that all these things have been "debunked" (usually by studies they themselves pay for and control). Also, flawed studies, even some not created by the factory farm industry are very common. Here is an example of a recent one from Natural news. Elementary, Watson: I know crap when I smell it and I sure don't want it on my dinner plate, nor in the air I breathe, nor in the water I bathe in. I know astronauts drink potable water distilled from their own urine with no ill effects (maybe). Not me: it's one of the reasons I am not an astronaut. I don't need a scientific study -- just my eyes, my nose, my sense of taste -- and my common sense.

Do not count on government to help you in any way. The FDA and the USDA are looking out for their buddies, the big corporations and the big campaign contributors, not for you.

By the way, don't believe anything the "Got Milk?" promoters say; there are not many happy cows in California.

To be fair, I will say that lately, we have started to see indications that things may be getting better -- but it is just starting, they are just indications and we have a long way to go. So don't hold your breath (unless you are visiting a CAFO).

There is plenty of material, if you wish to research thIs subject: a Google search for "cafo" will yield about a million results, for "factory farm" over two million. Here are a couple of many I looked at before writing this:;

Fortunately, there are solutions available and they are not that difficult to obtain. You just need to take a little time to learn about them. If you consume meat, poultry or dairy, take a look here



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