Food & Water Watch recently published its report Factory Farm Nation based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture data from 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012 for beef cattle, hogs, dairy cattle, broiler meat chickens and egg-laying operations. These are the report’s key findings:
- The total number of livestock on the largest factory farms rose by 20 percent between 2002 and 2012. The number of livestock units on factory farms increased from 23.7 million in 2002 to 28.5 million in 2012. “Livestock units” is a way to measure different kinds of animals on the same scale based on their weight — one beef cattle is the equivalent of approximately two-thirds of a dairy cow, eight hogs or four hundred chickens.
- These factory-farmed livestock produced 369 million tons of manure in 2012, about 13 times as much as the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population. This 13.8 billion cubic feet of manure is enough to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium 133 times. Unlike sewage produced in cities, manure on factory farms does not undergo any wastewater treatment.
- The number of dairy cows on factory farms doubled, and the average-sized dairy factory farm increased by half, between 1997 and 2012. The number of dairy cows on factory farms rose 120.9 percent in 2012, the equivalent of adding 550 factory-farmed dairy cows every day for 15 years. The average size of dairy factory farms grew by half (49.1 percent) from 1,114 cows in 1997 to 1,661 in 2012. In nine states — Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Texas, Indiana, Missouri and Nevada — the average size was more than 2,000 cows in 2012.
- The number of beef cattle on feedlots rose 5 percent from 2002 to 2012. Feedlot size grew even as the 2012 drought reduced total cattle numbers. The number of beef cattle on operations with at least 500 head grew from 11.6 million in 2002 to 12.1 million in 2012 — adding about 157 beef cattle every day for 10 years. Texas, Nebraska and Kansas all had more than 2 million beef cattle on feedlots in 2012. The 2012 drought reduced the total number of beef cattle on feedlots nationwide, but the average feedlot size increased by 12.7 percent over five years, from 3,800 in 2007 to more than 4,300 in 2012.
- The number of hogs on factory farms increased by more than one-third, and the average farm size swelled nearly 70 percent from 1997 to 2012. The number of hogs on factory farms grew by 37.1 percent — from 46.1 million in 1997 to 63.2 million 2012 — the equivalent of adding 3,100 hogs to factory farms every day for the past 15 years. The average size of a hog factory farm increased 68.4 percent, from 3,600 hogs in 1997 to nearly 6,100 in 2012.
- The number of broiler chickens on factory farms rose nearly 80 percent from 1997 to 2012, to more than 1 billion. The number of broiler chickens raised on factory farms rose 79.9 percent from 583.3 million in 1997 to 1.05 billion in 2012 — about three birds for every person in the United States. The growth in industrial broiler production added 85,000 chickens to factory farms every day over the past 15 years. The average size of U.S. broiler chicken operations rose by 5.9 percent, from 157,000 in 1997 to 166,000 birds in 2012. The average size in California and Nebraska exceeded 500,000 birds in 2012.
- The number of egg-laying hens on factory farms increased by nearly one quarter from 1997 to 2012, to 269 million. The number of egg-producing layer hens increased 24.8 percent from 215.7 million in 1997 to 269.3 million in 2012. Nearly half (49.3 percent) of the egg-laying hens in 2012 were in the top-five-egg producing states: Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, California and Texas. The average size of egg operations has grown by 74.2 percent over 15 years, rising from 399,000 in 1997 to more than 695,000 in 2012.