Food Industry

Published on December 28th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


Unprecedented Growth in Factory Farming in U.S.

From California to Iowa to Michigan, factory farming has blown up in the past 5-10 years. A new interactive map on this topic created by Food & Water Watch “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.”

Using U.S. Department of Agriculture Census data from 1997, 2002, and 2007 (the last year in which it is available), Food & Water Watch found an increase of more than 20% in the total number of livestock on factory farms from 2002 to 2007.

The number of broiler chickens and dairy cows nearly doubled in that time.

“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.”

The number if factory farms has increased and the largest factory farms have gotten even larger in the past 10 years, while the total number of farms on which livestock are raised has decreased.

In California, livestock on factory farms grew by 15% in 5 years.

In Iowa, Food & Water Watch found that elimination of the local control of counties contributed to a rapid rise in factory farming.

In Michigan, the study found that the number of livestock on factory farms increased by nearly 40% in 5 years.

Here are some more key findings:

  • 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.

If anyone in the U.S. thinks they aren’t eating foods from factory farms, they must be vegans, extremely careful about all the food they eat, or crazy.

Do you know where your food comes from?

Image Credit: Screenshot of Interactive Factory Farming Map

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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