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Marianne Scrivner
November 30th, 2010

Factory Farm Nation: Map Charts Unprecedented Growth in Factory Farming

Food & Water Watch Analysis Finds Livestock on Factory Farms Grew by 20 Percent in 5 Years

Washington, D.C. – Food & Water Watch today unveiled the newest version of its pioneering Factory Farm Map (www.factoryfarmmap.org) that charts the concentration of factory farms across the country and the impacts these massive operations have on human health, communities, and the environment. The interactive map illustrates the geographic shift in where and how food is raised in the U.S. and allows anyone to quickly search for the highest concentration of animals by region, state and county.

Food & Water Watch analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture Census data from 1997, 2002 and the most current census, 2007, for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, broiler meat chickens and egg-laying operations, and found the total number of livestock on the largest factory farms rose by more than 20 percent between 2002 and 2007—while the number of dairy cows and broiler chickens nearly doubled during the same time, making them the fastest-growing population of factory farmed animals.

Despite the fact that the number of livestock farms across the country has decreased, the Food & Water Watch Factory Farm Map illustrates that big farms are getting bigger, with specific regions and states bearing the brunt of intensive animal production.

“While more and more light is being shed on the ways our food system is broken and consumers are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from, there is still a lot of information that’s hidden from public view,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch’s executive director. “The purpose of the Factory Farm Map is to provide an easy-to-use tool that anyone can access to learn more about where our food is really coming from.”

Key findings in Food & Water Watch’s analysis and map show:

  • In five years, total animals on factory farms grew by 5 million, or more than 20 percent.
    • Cows on factory dairy farms nearly doubled from 2.5 million cows in 1997 to 4.9 million in 2007. Factory dairy farms growth in western states like Idaho, California, New Mexico and Texas shifted the dairy industry away from traditional states like Wisconsin, New York and Michigan.
    • Beef cattle on industrial feedlots rose 17 percent from 2002 to 2007 – adding about 1,100 beef cattle to feedlots every day for five years.
    • Nationally, about 5,000 hogs were added to factory farms every day for the past decade.
    • The growth of industrial broiler chicken production added 5,800 chickens every hour over the past decade.
    • Egg laying hens on factory farms increased by one-quarter over the decade.
  • The average size of factory farms increased by 9 percent in five years, cramming more animals into each operation.
    • In 2007, the average factory-farmed dairy held nearly 1,500 cows and the average beef feedlot held 3,800 beef cattle.
    • The average size of hog factory farms increased by 42 percent over a decade.
    • Five states with the largest broiler chicken operations average more than 200,000 birds per factory farm.
    • Over a decade, average-sized layer chicken operations have grown by 53.7 percent to 614,000 in 2007.

Food & Water Watch released a companion report, Factory Farm Nation, which explains the forces driving factory farms, as well as the environmental, public health, and economic consequences of this type of animal production. The report also examines the causes for industrial-scale livestock and the demise of small and medium farms.

“This map shows the extent to which factory farms have taken over farming and our communities,” said Robby Kenner, director of the Academy Award-nominated film Food, Inc. “Through the Factory Farm Map, Food & Water Watch is shining a spotlight on the mega-corporations that need to be held accountable for the damage they’re doing to our health, environment and rural economies.”

In addition to the map itself, the website ranks the top concentrations of factory farmed livestock nationwide as well as by state and county. It features a newsfeed for monitoring local and national factory farm news and social media tools that allow users to share the map and its data via Facebook, Twitter, email and RSS feed. The Factory Farm Map website includes a widget that bloggers and other websites can embed on their sites and a variety of other online tools for activists to spread the word and encourage local, regional or national action.

“Whether you live near a factory farm and are subject to the groundwater contamination or air pollution it causes, or live thousands of miles away and eat the meat or eggs from potentially unsafe facilities, very few people are spared the risk that these operations bring,” said Hauter. “The Factory Farm Map arms consumers with critical information about how our food is being produced and what we need to do to chart a course to a more sustainable food system.”

The Factory Farm Map and the companion report can be found at www.factoryfarmmap.org.

Contact: Anna Ghosh, Food & Water Watch: 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.
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