Reforming Industrial Animal Agriculture

The shift from the traditional diversified family farm to a more industrialized system of raising animals has contributed to the transformation of food production and rural communities in the United States, The traditional family farm has been replaced by “contract growers” and an industry that dictates how the animals will be raised.  Farmers assume the liability for waste disposal and mortgages on immense buildings housing thousands of hogs or tens of thousands of chickens. Marketing power is concentrated in the hands of a small number of large vertically integrated companies that own, process and sell the animal products and bear none of the responsibility for environmental degradation.

Across the country, water and air pollution from industrial livestock operations have compromised the health of rural communities and the surrounding environment. Huge volumes of manure are commonly stored in open lagoons and applied to nearby land without treatment to control excess nutrients, pathogens and other contaminants.

The largest industrial operations also use the most restrictive confinement methods such as battery cages for laying hens and gestation crates for sows. These types of confinement are not only among the least humane of farming practices but also contribute to the need for nontherapeutic application of antibiotics and the looming health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

Pew’s work on Reforming  Industrial Animal Agriculture seeks to move a broken, unhealthy and unsustainable system of food production toward a new model that is less damaging to the environment, rural communities, human health and animal welfare.

The project is based on the recommendations of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

For more information and resources, visit the Reforming Industrial Animal Agriculture campaign.


  • Big Chicken: Pollution and Industrial Poultry Production in America

    Jul 27, 2011 - Broiler chickens (raised for their meat) are produced by the millions in industrial facilities concentrated in just a handful of states, and much of the waste they produce ends up polluting the nation’s waterways. These are just two issues highlighted in Pew’s new report “Big Chicken: Pollution and Industrial Poultry Production in America.”

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