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Cafos Uncovered Executive Summary

Cafos Uncovered Executive Summary

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Published by Patricia Dillon

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Patricia Dillon on Nov 12, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/13/2013

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CAFOs Uncovered
The Untold Costs of ConfinedAnimal Feeding Operations
Doug Gurian-Sherman
U N I O N O F C O N C E R N E D S C I E N T I S T S
A P R I L 2 0 0 8
 
© 2008 Union of Concerned ScientistsAll rights reserved
Doug Gurian-Sherman
is a senior scientist in theUnion of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Food andEnvironment Program.e Union of Concerned Scientists is the leadingscience-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.e goal of the UCS Food and EnvironmentProgram is a food system that encouragesinnovative and environmentally sustainable waysto produce high-quality, safe, and affordable food,while ensuring that citizens have a voice in howtheir food is grown.More information about the Union of ConcernedScientists and the Food and Environment Programis available on the UCS website at
www.ucsusa.org.
e full text of this report is available online(in PDF format) at
www.ucsusa.org 
or may beobtained from:UCS PublicationsTwo Brattle SquareCambridge, MA 02238-9105Or, email
pubs@ucsusa.org 
or call (617) 547-5552.COVER PHOTOS:David Michalak, www.huntingtoncreative.com
(steak),
Farmsanctuary.org
(pigs),
istockphoto
(money),
Farmsanctuary.org
(chickens) ,
Rick Dove, www.doveimaging.com andwww.neuseriver.com
(fish)
DESIGN: Penny Michalak (designmz.com)
Printed on recycled paper using soy-based inks
ii
Union of Concerned Scientists
 
he livestock industry (including poultry) is vitalto our national economy, supplying meat, milk,eggs, and other animal products and providingmeaningful employment in rural communities. Untilrecently, food animal production was integrated withcrop production in a balanced way that was gener-ally beneficial to farmers and society as a whole. Butlivestock production has undergone a transforma-tion in which a small number of very large CAFOs(confined animal feeding operations) predominate.ese CAFOs have imposed significant—but largely unaccounted for—costs on taxpayers and communi-ties throughout the United States.CAFOs are characterized by large numbers of animals crowded into a confined space—an unnatu-ral and unhealthy condition that concentrates toomuch manure in too small an area. Many of thecostly problems caused by CAFOs can be attributedto the storage and disposal of this manure and theoveruse of antibiotics in livestock to stave off disease.e predominance of CAFOs is not the in-evitable result of market forces; it has been fosteredby misguided public policy. Alternative productionmethods can be economically efficient and techno-logically sophisticated, and can deliver abundant an-imal products while avoiding most of the problemscaused by CAFOs. However, these alternatives are ata competitive disadvantage because CAFOs have re-duced their costs through subsidies that come at thepublic’s expense, including (until very recently) low-cost feed. CAFOs have also benefited from taxpayer-supported pollution cleanup programs andtechnological “fixes” that may be counterproductive,such as the overuse of antibiotics. And by shiingthe risks of their production methods onto the pub-lic, CAFOs avoid the costs of the harm they cause.In addition, the fact that the meat processing in-dustry is dominated by a few large and economically powerful companies makes it difficult for alternativeproducers to slaughter their animals and get theirproducts to market. is excessive market concen-tration is facilitated by lax enforcement of laws in-tended to prevent anti-competitive practices.By describing several of the subsidies and otheroen hidden costs of CAFOs that are imposed onsociety (referred to as externalized costs or “exter-nalities”), this report attempts to clarify the realprice we pay—and can no longer afford—for thisharmful system. ese externalities are associatedwith the damage caused by water and air pollution(along with cleanup and prevention), the costsborne by rural communities (e.g., lower property  values), and the costs associated with excessive an-tibiotic use (e.g., harder-to-treat human diseases).Subsidies have included payments to grain farmersthat historically supported unrealistically low ani-mal feed prices, and payments to CAFOs to preventwater pollution.e United States can do better. In fact, there isa new and growing movement among U.S. farmersto produce food efficiently by working with naturerather than against it. More and more meat anddairy farmers are successfully shiing away frommassive, overcrowded CAFOs in favor of modernproduction practices. We offer a number of policy recommendations that would level the playing fieldfor these smart, sophisticated alternatives by reduc-ing CAFO subsidies and requiring CAFOs to pay afair share of their costs.
CAFOs Uncovered
1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 
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