Factory Farms in Minnesota
The silos and gentle meadows pic-tured on the labels of the food mostAmericans buy have little relation tohow that food is actually produced.
The signicant growth in industrial-
scale, factory-farmed livestock hascontributed to a host of environmental,public health, economic and foodsafety problems. Tens of thousands of animals can generate millions of tonsof manure annually, which polluteswater and air and can have healthrepercussions on nearby communities.Consumers in distant markets also feelthe impacts, either through foodborneillness outbreaks or other public healthrisks, or through the loss of regionalfood systems. As consumers saw dur-ing the 2010 egg recall, food safetyproblems on even a few factory farms can end up in every-
one’s refrigerators. Even the producers are not benetting
from this system of production because they are not gettingpaid 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.
Hog farms have grown dramatically, with thousands of
hogs packed into connement barns. In many regions, hog
producers have few potential buyers for their hogs. Thiseconomic pressure has led many hog producers to “getbig or get out.”
The rise of factoryhog farms is noteworthy because ithappened recently and quickly. In1992, less than a third of hogs wereraised on farms with more than 2,000animals;
by 2007, it was 95 percentof hogs.
Minnesota added 3 million factory-farmed hogs in 10 years, taking thestate’s total from 4.2 million in 1997to 7.1 million in 2007. The averagesize of Minnesota hog factory farmsincreased by more than a third, from2,990 in 1997 to 4,050 in 2007.There are 40 percent more factory-farmed hogs (7.1 million) than thereare people (5.3 million) in Minnesota.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.
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 quickly runs off into
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,
ver the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given
way to factory farms that conne thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly
packed facilities. In Minnesota, there were 7.1 million hogs, 290,000 beef cattle,91,200 dairy cows and 12.7 million chickens on the largest operations in 2007, ac-cording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Minnesota ranksthird in the nation in factory-farmed hogs and ninth in factory-farmed egg-laying hens.
Concentration of factory farms in Minnesota,taken from www.factoryfarmmap.org. Darkred indicates the most severe density.