The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch,

New USDA Data Shows Nearly 50% Increase In U.S. Factory Farmed Animals In 20 Years

Today’s factory farms produce twice the sewage of the entire U.S. population

A Food & Water Watch analysis of USDA’s 2022 Census of Agriculture data, released today, shows that America’s industrial animal agriculture industry is raising more animals on factory farms than ever before, producing unprecedented amounts of waste. Key findings include:

  • More confined animals: There are currently 1.7 billion animals raised on U.S. factory farms every year; an increase of 6% since 2017, 47% more than roughly twenty years ago in 2002.
  • More waste: The U.S. is home to 24 thousand factory farms, together producing 940 billion pounds of manure each year — twice as much as the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population. This is 52 billion pounds more than in 2017, equivalent to creating a new city of 39 million people (or nearly two New York Cities) in the past five years.
  • Fewer family-scale dairy farms: As factory farms take over, the number of small dairies raising animals outside the factory farm system plummeted, with barely one-third as many today compared to twenty years ago. Meanwhile, the average number of cows on a mega-dairy operation now exceeds 2,000 head.

Food & Water Watch research details how this rapid industrialization, underpinned by federal and state policy incentives and the failure to regulate factory farm pollution, comes at the direct expense of smaller family farms, public health, the environment and climate.

Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck issued the following statement:

“America today is truly a factory farming nation. Status quo legislating in Washington is enabling a corporate feeding frenzy in rural America. As industrial confinements drive family-scale farmers off their land, we are left with skyrocketing numbers of animals on factory farms producing enormous amounts of waste. The benefits flow to private coffers while our communities and environment are left holding the bag. Enough is enough — Congress must pass the Farm System Reform Act to ban factory farming now.”

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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