Intensive Livestock Operations in Industrial Agriculture: the True Cost of “Cheap Food” in North America.

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As the world’s population continues to grow at an ever increasing rate, we are forced to find more efficient ways to produce sufficient quantities of food in order to satisfy consumer demand. Although there are several alternatives, the most convenient solution seems to be the development of industrial production agriculture, which results in the farming practices of confined animal feeding. Intensive livestock operations or confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are farms in which anywhere from several hundred to several thousand animals are being raised in tremendously condensed spaces for the commercial production of poultry, meat and dairy. The Swiss College of Agriculture defines “industrial systems [as having] livestock densities larger than 10 livestock units per hectare, and they depend primarily on outside supplies of feed, energy, and other inputs, as in confined animal feeding operations”(Menzi. Oenema. Shipin. Gerber. Robinson. Franceshini.). Although CAFOs are currently the most cost-effective and efficient way to produce animal products, there are multiple adverse effects associated with these production practices. Tons of manure, waste, and other by-products generated from intensive livestock operations pollute the air, soil, and water in surrounding areas due to agricultural run-off. CAFOs pose a serious threat to the environment from water and air pollution, which in turn is potentially harmful to the wellbeing of humans. Nevertheless, supporters of modern industrial agricultural production practices claim that the economic benefits of theses farming practices currently outweigh the potential consequences to the environment and society.

Although modern industrial agricultural practices may have a few problems, there are a multitude of advantages that are commonly overlooked when discussing the effects of these production techniques. After all, the development of industrial agriculture was the solution to a problem before it was ever the...
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