Industrial agriculture is the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals, often involving chemical fertilizers on crops or the routine, harmful use of antibiotics in animals (as a way to compensate for filthy conditions, even when the animals are not sick).
Industrial agriculture is the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals, often involving chemical fertilizers on crops or the routine, harmful use of antibiotics in animals (as a way to compensate for filthy conditions, even when the animals are not sick). It may also involve crops that are genetically modified, heavy use of pesticides, and other practices that deplete the land, mistreat animals, and increase various forms of pollution. In recent decades, consolidation in the industry has intensified as agriculture has undergone what is known as “vertical integration,” a transition from small, diverse farms producing a variety of crops and livestock to an industrialized system dominated by big multinational corporations. These corporations reap the benefits while farmers, growers, and their workers see their profits evaporate, even as the health burdens of industrial practices increase.
The term “factory farm” is commonly used to refer to large, industrialized facilities raising animals for food, but it isn’t a legal or scientific term. The official name for these facilities is concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. The term refers to a facility that keeps a very large number of live animals confined for more than 45 days per year and brings food into their enclosures rather than allowing them to graze. A “large CAFO” typically has at least 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2,500 large pigs, or 82,000 egg-laying hens. There are separate definitions for medium-size and small CAFOs.
According to some estimates, industrialized farming–which produces greenhouse gas emission, pollutes air and water, and destroys wildlife–costs the environment the equivalent of about US$3 trillion every year.
Externalized costs, such as the funds required to purify contaminated drinking water or to treat diseases related to poor nutrition, are also unaccounted for by the industry, meaning that communities and taxpayers may be picking up the tab without even realizing it.