Factory Farm Growth

Factory Farm chickens

Factory Farm Growth

The following statistics on factory farm growth are from Food & Water Watch’s analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture data from 1997, 2002 and 2007 for beef cattle, hogs, dairy cattle, meat chickens and egg-laying facilities. This research data is published in Food & Water Watch’s report titled Factory Farm Nation.

  • There are 28,821,693 million animals living on factory farms in the U.S. (2007). The number of factory-farmed animals increased significantly for all types of livestock. Most animals raised for food in the United States are raised on factory farms.
  • The total number of livestock on the largest factory farms rose by more than one-fifth between 2002 and 2007.
  • The number of livestock units on factory farms rose 21.2 percent from 23.8 million in 2002 to 28.8 million in 2007. “Livestock units” is a way to measure different kinds of livestock animals on the same scale based on their weight — one beef cattle is the equivalent of approximately two-thirds of a dairy cow, eight hogs or four hundred chickens.
  • Dairy cows on factory farms (over 500 cows) nearly doubled. The number of dairy cows rose 93.4 percent from 2.5 million cows in 1997 to 4.9 million in 2007. On average, nearly 650 additional dairy cows were added every day over the decade. The growth of factory-farmed dairies in western states like Idaho, California, New Mexico and Texas shifted dairy production away from traditional dairy states like Wisconsin, New York and Michigan.
  • Beef cattle on feedlots (over 500 cattle) rose 17 percent. The number of beef cattle on operations with at least 500-head grew by 17.1 percent from 11.6 million in 2002 to 13.5 million in 2007 — adding about 1,100 beef cattle every day for five years. The five states with the largest numbers of beef cattle on feedlots all have more than 1,000,000-head.
  • Hogs on factory farms (over 500 hogs) increased by one-third. The number of hogs on factory farms grew by more than a third (36.3 percent) from 46.1 million in 1997 to 62.9 million in 2007, adding 16.7 million hogs. Nationally, about 4,600 hogs were added to factory farms every day for the past decade.
  • Broiler chickens on the largest factory farms nearly doubled to 1 billion. In 2007, there were over one billion broiler chickens on large farms in the United States — more than three birds for every person in the country.
  • The number of broiler chickens raised on factory farms nearly doubled over the decade, rising 87.4 percent from 583.3 million in 1997 to 1.09 billion in 2007. The growth in industrial broiler production added 5,800 chickens to factory farms every hour over the past decade.
  • Egg-laying hens on factory farms increased by one-quarter to 266 million. The number of egg-producing layer hens increased by nearly a quarter over the decade, rising 23.6 percent from 215.7 million in 1997 to 266.5 million in 2007. Half the egg-laying hens in 2007 were in the top five egg producing states — Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, California and Pennsylvania.
  • The average size of factory farms increased 9 percent in five years. The size of the average large-scale livestock operation increased from 1,018 animal units in 2002 to 1,108 in 2007. The shift to industrial scale livestock production has crammed more animals onto each operation.
  • Average factory-farmed dairy size swelled by one-third. The average size of factory-farmed dairies increased by a third over the decade, rising from 1,114 head in 1997 to 1,481 in 2007. In Kansas the average size was more than twice the national average, with nearly 3,600 cows on each operation in 2007. Average-sized mega-dairies in Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Idaho and Nevada held more than 2,000 cows.
  • The average beef feedlot has more than 3,800-head. The average size of beef cattle feedlots nationally declined slightly from 2002 to 2007, falling by 8.7 percent to 3,810 in 2007. In Texas, the average feedlot inventory was over 20,000. Average-sized feedlots in California, Oklahoma and Washington were over 12,000 head.
  • The average size of hog factory farms increased by 42 percent over a decade. The average hog factory farm rose from 3,612 hogs in 1997 to 5,144 in 2007. Seven states averaged more than 10,000 hogs per factory farm.
  • The average broiler chicken factory farm size grew to 168,000 birds. The average size of U.S. broiler chicken operations rose by 7.4 percent from 157,000 in 1997 to 168,000 birds in 2007. The states with the largest operations are considerably larger than the national average. Five states (California, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma and Indiana) averaged broiler flocks in excess of 200,000 birds. The USDA Agricultural Census only measures broiler operations by annual sales, not by facility size. An average of 5.5 batches of broilers is produced per year at any given facility, so facility size is estimated by dividing annual sales by 5.5.
  • The average size of egg operations has grown by half over the decade. Average-sized U.S. layer chicken operations have grown by 53.7 percent from 399,000 in 1997 to 614,000 in 2007. The states with the largest layer operations were both considerably larger than the national average and grew much faster over the decade. The five states with the largest average layer flocks (Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois) all averaged at least 750,000 hens per factory farm.

For years, numerous investigations have revealed conditions on factory farms that result in extreme and undeniable animal suffering and misery, a high level of abuse at the hands of farm workers, very poor or absent veterinary care, animals forced to maximum and painful production limits, massive chronic disease and illness, a heavy use of drugs to keep the animals alive, highly restrictive and confined living conditions, animal exposure to filth, bacteria and germs, abuse in transport, and a horrific and inhumane slaughter process.


Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary via photopin

USDA Census of Agriculture 1999, 2002, 2007

Food & Water Watch, Factory Farm Nation: How America Turned Its Livestock Farms into Factories


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