Huge meat companies have steadily driven down the prices farmers receive for the livestock they raise, forcing farms to “get big or get out.” Small farms have been replaced by factory farms that pollute nearby air and water, undermine rural economies, and reduce the quality of life for neighbors.
About Factory Farm Map
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. We work to promote the practices and policies that will result in sustainable and secure food systems that provide healthy food for consumers and an economically viable living for family farmers and rural communities.
Why did we create this map?
We wanted to illustrate something that people in rural America have known for a long time: family farms are being replaced by factory farms, and these facilities are overwhelming some regions of the country. This method of raising livestock harms rural communities and puts small family farms out of business. It takes away consumers’ choice at the grocery store, makes food safety problems happen on a larger scale, and creates more waste than the surrounding environment can adequately absorb. It keeps animals packed tightly together inside buildings, leading to stress and disease that are managed with treatments like the constant use of antibiotics that can ultimately harm public health.
By concentrating the amount of animals into one factory farm, and factory farms into one part of the country, we concentrate the effects of their waste on the environment, while sending products from unsustainable, potentially unsafe facilities far and wide before a problem is even detected, putting consumers all over the country at risk.
How did we get here?
Family farmers have been forced to get big—or get out of farming. And the ones that remain are at the mercy of unfair contracts with the big companies that control the meat system from farm to fork. Because farmers have only a few options for selling their meat to processors, they are forced to do so for low prices – sometimes even less than what their livestock cost to raise. These bad economics pressure many farmers to quit raising livestock and others to try to make up for low prices per animal by raising more animals.
How do we change the system?
For several decades, agricultural policy in the U.S. has been based on this “get big or get out” approach, which is incompatible with a sustainable food system for consumers and producers. That’s why Food & Water Watch is working with its allies to create a better farm bill in 2012: one that provides fair access to markets for farmers; busts up big food monopolies; and requires meatpackers to pay farmers a fair price for their livestock so they could actually make a living without turning their operation into a factory farm.