Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) are agricultural facilities that congregate animals, feed, manure, urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small area of land. By definition, AFOs confine animals for at least 45 days in a 12-month period with no grass or other vegetation in the area during normal growing season. Animals in AFOs are fed unnatural diets on site instead of allowing them to roam and graze. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations are AFOs that are considered particularly hazardous based on concentration of animals, sanitation practices, location, and potential to pollute waterways and other natural resources. The EPA determines whether an agricultural business is a CAFO based on regulations created by the Clean Water Act, and special permits are required to operate a CAFO legally. Enforcement of these regulations has not been very strict, which has caused many problems. CAFOs exist in all regions of the U.S., but are concentrated along the eastern seaboard, the plains and the west coast. The vast majority of all animal protein raised and consumed in the U.S. comes through the CAFO system. If you buy meat, you should be aware that CAFO facilities vary widely, with huge variations in size, sanitation, humane treatment practices, the number of animals involved, management of wastewater and manure, and whether the operation is “a significant contributor of pollutants.” They may also vary in their use of antibiotics and hormones. CAFOs, which are also known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations or Factory Farms, are prohibited under Animal Welfare Approved standards. (AWA)