Business & Policy Food Issues Why We Have Factory Farming and How to End It The Reasons for and Solutions to Food Manufacturing By Doris Lin Doris Lin Writer University of Southern California MIT Doris Lin an animal rights attorney and the Director of Legal and Government Affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. Learn about our editorial process Updated March 18, 2021 Jamie Garbutt / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Business & Policy Corporate Responsibility Environmental Policy Economics Food Issues Factory farming is defined as the extreme confinement of livestock for commercial use. This agricultural technique was invented by scientists in the 1960s in an effort to maximize efficiency and production so that farms could manage a growing population and higher demand for meat. It was designed to use as little space as possible, require less maintenance, and allow farmers to manage their animals quickly. Opposition Many people wonder why factory farming is still in effect. It probably comes as no surprise that a method that has been around for decades might not seem like the best answer anymore. Many ask what purpose this controversial technique serves. Animal rights activists protest factory farming for several reasons. They continue to demand freedom and comfort for the livestock on factory farms and for farmers to cease the use of synthetic hormones. These protestors also argue that the mistreatment and slaughter of animals for human consumption is inhumane and morally wrong. Environmentalists also take issue with factory farms for their negative impact on the earth. These farms release huge amounts of methane gas and waste into the land, air, and sea, and their emissions are not closely monitored. There are plenty of people who oppose the goliath factory farms, so why is factory farming still around? Why Factory Farming Is Still Around The answer is simple: scientists, economists, and farmers agree that factory farming is still the only way to keep up. The fact of the matter is that, while the demand for commercially produced, affordable meat may be decreasing, it is still high, primarily because there are more people on the planet than ever before. Consumer awareness regarding the consumption of animal products is on the rise and thousands have been convinced to stop eating meat, but vegetarians and vegans are far outnumbered by the millions of people that make meat-eating a part of their daily routine. Aside from the fact that people just like meat, there are a number of logistical reasons for keeping this old technique alive. Logistics There are countless alternatives to factory farming available, but there are a few reasons that they are not being executed on a larger scale. Organic and free-range farming is often high maintenance and costly. Allowing cows, pigs, and chickens to roam free requires much more land, water, food, labor, and other resources than factory farming. Roaming animals consume more in general than feedlot animals because they are expending energy through exercise. Their frequent movement also makes them susceptible to changes in their fat and muscle makeup, which need to be closely monitored in order to keep the animals suitable for human consumption. Grass-fed and pasture-raised animals present similar issues. Animals on a grass diet gain weight slower than they would if they were eating a manufactured, concentrated feed designed to encourage speedy maturation. Their bodies are even more prone to frequent changes with as much ground as they tend to cover in a day. Furthermore, rounding up and transporting roaming animals requires manpower, time, and fuel. With an estimated 7.8 billion hungry mouths to feed as of 2020, many non-commercial farming methods are not feasible for satisfying consumer demand. Large livestock farms desire high production and low cost above all else, and alternatives to factory farming are unappealing because they significantly decrease efficiency and profit. Possible Solutions Those in favor of and those opposed to factory farming might be able to find some common ground somewhere in between eating commercially raised meat daily and becoming vegan. Many impassioned activists have proposed that everyone should transition to veganism and stop the production of meat altogether, but this is just not an option for everybody. Meat and dairy are excellent sources of protein, and most people rely on animal products for part or most of their diet. In addition, vegan alternatives on the market carry a price tag that is well out of reach for many, making the consumption of animal products non-negotiable for the vast majority of the population. What You Can Do There are a few practices that you can adopt to help mitigate the problems that factory farming presents. By making intentional choices about where your food is coming from and how you interact with the planet, you can make positive change without having to sacrifice your entire lifestyle. Purchase Meat Locally By purchasing meat from small, local farms, you can know more about how it gets to your table. If mistreatment of animals and a high carbon footprint are problematic for you, steer clear of factory farms and opt instead for sustainable farms where you can ask questions about how animals are raised and how waste is disposed of. Reduce Your Intake of Unsustainable Meats If you're willing to cut back on meat in your diet, prioritize eliminating meats that are the most harmful to the environment. Lamb, beef, and pork do the most damage to the planet through their production, manufacturing, and transport. The most environmentally-friendly choice of meat is poultry, with chicken being the most sustainable option of them all. Be Kinder to the Environment You can make other eco-friendly choices that aren't even related to eating meat. Taking up practices like recycling and composting can make a positive difference, and you should use reusable products whenever you can. You can also try carpooling or public transportation to reduce your own carbon emissions. View Article Sources "Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations And Their Impact On Communities." National Association Of Local Boards Of Health. "CAFOs: What We Don't Know Is Hurting Us." The Natural Resources Defense Council. "2020 World Population Data Sheet." Population Reference Bureau. Pasiakos, Stefan et al. "Sources And Amounts Of Animal, Dairy, And Plant Protein Intake Of US Adults In 2007–2010." Nutrients, vol. 7, no. 8, 2015, pp. 7058-7069., doi:10.3390/nu7085322 Gerber, P.J et al. "Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock – A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).