Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

Although CAFOs are regulated by state and federal laws, these operations still have the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater. CAFOs produce a much greater volume of animal waste than smaller scale family farms. CAFOs are not able to efficiently use this waste for fertilizer as there is simply too great volume of waste. They frequently store the manure in lagoons or piles, which lead to overflows of waste.

Industrial food often carries many food-borne illnesses due to the tight confinement of animals. The animal waste carries bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella. CAFO workers and their communities are susceptible to respiratory diseases and outbreaks of illnesses. Animals are often fed contaminated grains and have an unhealthy diet, which impacts the nutritional value of the meat and dairy products.

Manure from CAFOs carries viruses, bacteria, oxygen-depleting nutrients, and other toxins. Spraying manure on fields spreads these pathogens and toxins, which can contaminate land and water sources. Manure is like many other substances—natural when used in the appropriate amount and setting, but dangerous when over-used or improperly applied to the natural landscape. Recent Wisconsin insurance case law confirmed that at least in some instances manure transforms from a nutrient to a pollutant when it misapplied and causes private well contamination. When manure is over applied, it cannot be absorbed by the land and can runoff into nearby surface and ground water sources.