CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (2008)

April 2008
Confined animal feeding operations damage our air, water, and the rural communities they inhabit. And when we count the costs of this damage, it turns out that we can't afford to produce meat this way.

The U.S. livestock industry—a large and vital part of agriculture in this country—has been undergoing a drastic change over the past several decades. Huge CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) have become the predominant method of raising livestock, and the crowded conditions in these facilities have increased water and air pollution and other types of harm to public health and rural communities.

CAFOs are not the inevitable result of market forces. Instead, these unhealthy operations are largely the result of misguided public policy that can and should be changed.

In this report, the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzes both the policies that have facilitated the growth of CAFOs and the enormous costs imposed on society by CAFOs. We also discuss sophisticated and efficient alternatives for producing affordable animal products, and offer policy recommendations that can begin to lead us toward a healthy and sustainable food system.