Factory Farms in Pennsylvania
Fact Sheet • February 2011
ver 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 Pennsylvania, there were 998,000 hogs, 35,300 beef cattle, 54,600 dairy cows and 25.5 million chickens on the largest operations in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in factory-farmed egg-laying hens.
meatpackers and processors that dominate the links in the food chain between livestock producers and consumers.
In recent decades, small- and mid-sized dairy farms disappeared and were replaced by factory-farmed dairies that now dominate milk production. Between 1997 and 2007, the United States lost 52,000 dairy farms — about 5,000 farms every year.1 Food & Water Watch found that although Pennsylvania more than quadrupled the number of dairy cows on the largest operations over the decade, from 11,900 in 1997 to 54,600 in 2007, the growth of factory dairy farms in Pennsylvania was overwhelmed by the size and growth of factory-farmed dairies in Western states. In 2007, there were more than 2.7 million cows on factory-farmed dairies in
Concentration of factory farms in Pennsylvania, taken from factoryfarmmap.org. Dark red indicates the most severe density.
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 significant growth in industrial-scale, factory-farmed livestock has contributed to a host of environmental, public health, economic and food safety problems. Tens of thousands of animals can generate millions of tons of manure annually, which pollutes water and air and can have health repercussions on nearby communities. Consumers in distant markets also feel the impacts, either through foodborne illness outbreaks or other public health risks, or through the loss of regional food systems. As consumers saw during the 2010 egg recall, food safety problems on even a few factory farms can end up in everyone’s refrigerators. Even the producers are not benefitting from this system of production because they are not getting paid much for the livestock they raise. The rise of factory farming was no accident. It resulted from policy choices driven by big agribusinesses, especially
Total Factory-Farmed Animals in Pennsylvania
California, Idaho, Texas and New Mexico. The emergence of Western factory-farmed dairies has contributed to the decline of local dairy farms in the Southeast, Northeast, Upper Midwest and parts of the Midwest.2 The average number of cows on Pennsylvania factory farms was 815 in 2007, significantly lower than the national average of 1,480. Small dairies generate less manure than factory farms and can either apply it to cropland or incorporate it into pasture as fertilizer at rates that the land can absorb. Big dairies generate far more manure than they can use as fertilizer, so it gets stored in lagoons or is over-applied to cropland where it can run off into nearby waterways. In 2010, Fulton County dairy operators agreed to pay a $12,920 fine and shut down their farm after tens of thousands of gallons of manure spilled into a tributary of the Licking Creek and Potomac River and killed 650 fish.
Chicken meat comes from billions of chickens raised on large-scale broiler chicken operations where farmers raise birds on contract for the few poultry processing companies that dominate the industry. The scale of poultry farms has grown rapidly, as growers try to eke out a living by increasing the volume of birds they produce. Pennsylvania has increased its factory-farmed broiler chickens by more than 80 percent in 10 years, adding 4.7 million broilers between 1997 and 2007, 4 million of which were added between 2002 and 2007. In 2007, Pennsylvania had a total of 10.4 million broiler chickens on factory farms.
Take action: Go to www.factoryfarmmap.org to learn more Almost all eggs are produced on large-scale operations with about factory farms in Illinois and to take action to stop the hundreds of thousands of layer hens in each facility. A hand- spread of factory farms. ful of egg companies produce a large proportion of the eggs most Americans eat. In 2009, the four largest firms owned 30.2 percent of the laying hens in production.3 Egg producEndnotes tion is concentrated in only a few states. Nearly half the hens in 2007 were located in the top five states. Pennsylva1 USDA NASS. Agricultural Statistics Database. Accessed August 5, nia is the fifth-largest producer of factory-farmed eggs, with 2008. Available at http://www.nass.usda.gov/QuickStats; MacDon15.2 million layers on the largest farms in 2007. The average ald, James M. and William D. McBride. USDA ERS. “The Transformation of U.S. Livestock Agriculture: Scale, Efficiency, and Risks.” size of a Pennsylvania factory-farmed egg facility rose 75 EIB-43. January 2009; Miller, James J. and Don P. Blayney. USDA, percent between 1997 and 2007 to almost 372,000 birds. Factory farms cause extensive environmental damage and leave communities with fewer independent family farms, unsafe water, reduced air quality and depressed economies. Instead of benefitting, consumers face foodborne illness outbreaks and public health threats like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and fewer real choices about how their food is produced. Congress, regulatory agencies and state goverments need to put a stop to the policies that have allowed these facilities to proliferate. They must create and enforce farm and food policies that allow farmers to make a living and do not harm communities, the environment or public health.
2 3 ERS. “Dairy Backgrounder.” (LDP-M-145-01). July 2006 at 7. USDA NASS. Agricultural Statistics Database. Dr. Shane, Simon. “2008 Egg Industry Survey.” Watt Egg Industry. Vol. 114, No. 3. March 2009.
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