Factory farming is a term referring to the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a factory
Factory farms hold large numbers of animals, typically cows, pigs, turkeys, or chickens, often indoors, typically at high densities. The aim of the operation is to produce as much meat, eggs, or milk at the lowest possible cost. Food is supplied in place, and a wide variety of artificial methods are employed to maintain animal health and improve production, such as the use of antimicrobial agents, vitamin supplements, and growth hormones. Physical restraints are used to control movement or actions regarded as undesirable. Breeding programs are used to produce animals more suited to the confined conditions and able to provide a consistent food product.
Environmental Impacts of Factory Farms:
- Deforestation from animal feed production.
- Unsustainable pressure on land for production of high-protein/high-energy animal feed.
- Pollution of soil, water and air by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertiliser used for feed-crops and from manure
- Worldwide reduction of genetic diversity of livestock and loss of traditional breeds
Animal Welfare Impact:
- Close confinement systems (cages, crates) or lifetime confinement in indoor sheds
- Fast-spreading infections encouraged by crowding and stress in intensive conditions.
- Debeaking (beak amputation without pain killer) in the poultry and egg insustry to avoid pecking in overcrowded quarters quarters - animal cruelty in general
Aspects of Factory Farms:
- Low monetary cost — Intensive agriculture tends to produce food that can be sold at lower cost to consumers.
- Standardization — Factory farming methods permit increased consistency and control over product output.
- Efficiency — Animals in confinement can be supervised more closely than free-ranging animals, and diseased animals can be treated faster.
- Diseases – Intensive farming may make the evolution and spread of harmful diseases easier. Many communicable animal diseases spread rapidly through densely spaced populations of animals and crowding makes genetic reassortment more likely. However small family farms are more likely to introduce bird diseases and more frequent association with people into the mix, as happened in the recent 2009 flu pandemic69 Some evidence suggests that antibiotic use in agriculture has contributed to antibiotic resistance in humans.
- Pollution — Large quantities and concentrations of waste are produced. Lakes, rivers, and groundwater are at risk when animal waste is improperly recycled. Pollutant gases are also emitted. Concentrations of animals can produce unacceptable levels of foul smells as opposed to the tolerable odours of the countryside. In less intensive conditions, natural processes can break down potential pollutants. Large farms can maintain and operate sophisticated systems to control waste products. Smaller farms may or may not be less able to invest in the same standards of pollution control.
- Destruction of biodiversity — A tendency towards using a monoculture of single adapted breeds in factory farming, both in arable and animal farming, gives uniform product designed for high yields, at the risk of increased susceptibility to disease. The loss of locally adapted breeds reduces the resilience of the agricultural system. The issue is not limited to factory farming and historically the problem is reflected in the rapid adoption of one or two strains of crops across a wide area as seen in the Irish potato famine of 1845 and the Bengal rice famine in 1942. The loss of the gene pool of domesticated animals limits the ability to adapt to future problems.