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Factory Farms in Iowa

Factory Farms in Iowa

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Over the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given way to factory farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly packed facilities. In Iowa, there were 17.9 million hogs, 1.18 million beef cattle and 53.5 million chickens on the largest operations in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Iowa ranks first in factory-farmed egg-laying hens, first in factory-farmed hogs and fourth in large cattle feedlots.
Over the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given way to factory farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly packed facilities. In Iowa, there were 17.9 million hogs, 1.18 million beef cattle and 53.5 million chickens on the largest operations in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Iowa ranks first in factory-farmed egg-laying hens, first in factory-farmed hogs and fourth in large cattle feedlots.

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Published by: Food and Water Watch on Mar 01, 2011
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07/10/2013

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Factory Farms in Iowa
The silos and gentle meadows pictured on the labels of the food most Americans buy have little relation to how
that food is actually produced. The signicant growth in
industrial-scale, factory-farmed livestock has contributed toa host of environmental, public health, economic and foodsafety problems. Tens of thousands of animals can generatemillions of tons of manure annually, which pollutes waterand air and can have health repercussions on nearby com-munities. Consumers in distant markets also feel the im-pacts, either through foodborne illness outbreaks or otherpublic health risks, or through the loss of regional food sys-tems. As consumers saw during the 2010 egg recall, foodsafety problems on even a few factory farms can end up in
everyone’s refrigerators. Even the producers are not benet
-ting from this system of production because they are notgetting paid much for the livestock they raise.The rise of factory farming was no accident. It resulted frompolicy choices driven by big agribusinesses, especiallymeatpackers and processors that dominate the links in thefood chain between livestock producers and consumers.
Eggs
Almost all eggs are produced on large-scale operationswith hundreds of thousands of layer hens in each facility.A handful of egg companies produce a large proportion of 
the eggs most Americans eat. In 2009, the four largest rms
owned 30.2 percent of the laying hens in production.
1
Eggproduction is concentrated in only a few states. Nearly half 
the hens in 2007 were located in the top ve states
.
Iowawas the number-one producer of factory-farmed eggs in theUnited States, with more than 52 million layers on the larg-est operations in 2007. The size of average Iowa egg factoryfarms nearly tripled to nearly 1.3 million hens between1997 and 2007, more than double the national average of 614,000.In the summer of 2010, more than half a billion eggs wererecalled from two large Iowa egg companies after the larg-est salmonella outbreak since the 1970s sickened nearly1,500 people.
2
Wright County Egg, owned by the DeCosterfamily, recalled 380 million eggs, and Hillandale Farms,
O
ver the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given
way to factory farms that conne thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly
packed facilities. In Iowa, there were 17.9 million hogs, 1.18 million beef cattleand 53.5 million chickens on the largest operations in 2007, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Iowa ranks rst in factory-farmedegg-laying hens, rst in factory-farmed hogs and fourth in large cattle feedlots.
FOOD
Concentration of factory farms in Iowa, taken from factoryfarmmap.org. Dark red indicates the most severe density.
Total Factory Farm Animals in Iowa
Source: USDA.
 
which shared a feed and hatchery supplier with WrightCounty Egg, recalled 170 million eggs.
3
Companies con-
trolled by the DeCoster family run nine egg connement
facilities in Wright County, Iowa, with 8.9 million layers.
4
 After the recall, U.S. Food and Drug Administration inves-tigators uncovered a host of unsanitary conditions at the
facilities, including y, maggot and rodent infestations and
towering piles of manure.
Pork
Hog farms have grown dramatically, with thousands of 
hogs packed into connement barns. In many regions, hog
producers have few potential buyers for their hogs. Thiseconomic pressure has led many hog producers to “get bigor get out.”
5
The rise of factory hog farms is noteworthy be-cause it happened recently and quickly. In 1992, less thana third of hogs were raised on farms with more than 2,000animals;
6
by 2007, it was 95 percent of hogs.
7
Iowa was thenumber-one producer of factory-farmed hogs in the UnitedStates in 2007, the most recent year for which data is avail-able. The number of hogs on factory farms in Iowa grew by75 percent between 1997 and 2007, from 10.2 million in1997 to 17.9 million in 2007. There are six times as manyhogs on factory farms as there are people in Iowa.The tremendous amount of manure produced on hogfactory farms is stored in lagoons and applied  oftenover-applied  to cropland. Smaller hog operations cansafely apply all the manure to crops as fertilizer, but largeoperations produce so much that some has to be shippedoff-site.
8
When lagoons spill or leak or manure is over-applied to farmland, it can run off into local waterways. Inthe upper Midwest, where farmland freezes solid during the
winter, manure applied to frozen elds also quickly runs off 
into local waters.
Beef
Over the past decade, large-scale feedlots that fatten beef cattle prior to slaughter came to dominate the entire cattleindustry. Until the mid-1960s, most feedlots were family-owned operations with fewer than 1,000 head.
9
Now, the
largest beef feedlots nish nearly 16,000 cattle annually.
Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s beef comes from theselargest factory-farmed feedlots.
10
As the fourth-largest fac-tory-farmed beef-producing state, Iowa almost doubled the
number of cattle on factory feedlots in just ve years (grow
-ing by 94 percent) for a total of 1.18 million cattle.The large number of cattle on these feedlots generates
large amounts of manure, and feedlots can ood or gen
-erate polluted runoff. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency led civil enforcement actions against
three beef feedlots in Sioux and Mills counties to preventunauthorized discharges of manure into local waterways.
One of the feedlots agreed to pay a $31,573 ne for its un
-authorized manure discharge into Mills County waterways.
Dairy
In recent decades, small- and mid-sized dairy farms disap-peared and were replaced by factory-farmed dairies thatnow dominate milk production. Between 1997 and 2007,the United States lost 52,000 dairy farms  about 5,000farms every year.
11
The number of cows on factory dairyfarms in Iowa increased tenfold in 10 years, from 6,401 in1997 to 64,531 in 2007. The average size of these opera-tions increased from 800 to almost 1,300.Small dairies generate less manure than factory farms andcan either apply it to cropland or incorporate it into pas-
0 300,000 600,000 900,000 1,200,000 1,500,000
614,0001,279,344
The Average Size of a Factory-Farm Egg-LayingOperation
Source: USDA.
NationalIowa

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