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What Is a CAFO?

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have a bad reputation  - and with good reason. These giant livestock factories may cause a multitude of health, environmental, economic, and quality of life problems.

A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is a giant livestock factory in which hundreds or thousands of animals are housed and fed in large confinement buildings.


The animals have barely any room to move and no opportunity to pasture. In Iowa, CAFOs are predominately hog operations, but chicken, turkey and cattle operations are found in the state, too.

In hog confinements, the pigs stand on slatted floors and their wastes fall into huge lagoons beneath the confinement. These waste pits store anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of gallons of liquid manure for months at a time.

Because of the nature of the waste pits, the manure putrefies, emitting toxic ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases. These gases are so harmful that farm workers have died from asphyxiation when they entered an improperly vented CAFO.

Even without accidents, the noxious gases negatively affects neighbors when they escape into the environment. Eventually, the liquid manure is applied onto agricultural fields as fertilizer, further disturbing people who don't even live near CAFOs.

Learn more about the impacts of CAFOs here. 

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