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What Is a Factory Farm, Anyway?

  • Just one factory farm can cram hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of animals into tiny cages where they can barely move. The HSUS

Each year in the United States, nearly 10 billion animals—chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and more—are raised and killed for our food.

Not only do they routinely endure terrible abuses on factory farms, but factory farms can devastate our environment and rural communities.

Massive in size and suffering

Nearly all our meat, dairy, and eggs comes from animals on factory farms—and there are about 18,000 of them across the country.

Factory farms are often called CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). The Environmental Protection Agency classifies large CAFOs as confining, for example, 125,000 or more egg-laying hens, 10,000 or more pigs, 55,000 or more turkeys, and so on.

But these operations are often far larger. Some factory egg farms can confine millions of hens in tiny cages. So "factory farm" isn't a technical term—it refers to massive, industrialized facilities that often put profits ahead of animal welfare, treating farm animals not as individuals, but more like units on a production line.

Cruel and inhumane

These operations routinely subject animals to terrible abuses before sending them to slaughter. Animals like laying hens, veal calves, and breeding pigs are crammed into cages barely larger than their bodies. Chickens raised for meat are genetically manipulated to grow at very rapid rates, which causes tremendous suffering. And at slaughter plants, many animals are killed while still completely conscious.

Help farm animals three ways

Follow the Three Rs in your diet:

  • Reduce the amount of animal products you consume
  • Refine your diet by moving away from factory farm animal products
  • Replace animal products in your diet with easy-to-find vegetarian options
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  • Read white papers on farm animal issues Browse