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. Family farms have been replaced by an industry that dictates how the animals will be raised but leaves farmers liable for waste disposal and the financial burdens associated with housing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 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 confinement types 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 Reforming Industrial Animal Agriculture campaign worked to strengthen federal oversight of livestock waste in order to protect the environment and human health.
The project was based on the recommendations of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.