What Is A Factory "Farm"?

        Photo courtesy of R Dove

        Photo courtesy of R Dove

Merriam Webster Dictionary: a large industrialized farm; especially : a farm on which large numbers of livestock are raised indoors in conditions intended to maximize production at minimal cost.

Cambridge Dictionary Online: a system of farming in which a lot of animals are kept in a small enlosed area, in order to produce a large amount of meat, eggs, or milk as cheaply as possible.

Oxford Dictionary: A system of rearing livestock using intensive methods, by which poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions.

The Free Dictionary: A large-scale farming operation designed for efficient production, especially a large complex where animals are kept and tended in narrow cages or other close confinement.

Urban Dictionary: Raising farm animals for human consumption solely for profit, without regard to humane farm practices, human and animal health concerns, environmental sustainability, or farm worker safety.

Wikipedia (Intensive Animal Farming)

Intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production, also called factory farming, is a modern form of intensive farming that refers to the keeping of livestock, such as cattle, poultry (including in "battery cages") and fish at higher stocking densities than is usually the case with other forms of animal agriculture—a practice typical in industrial farming by agribusinesses. The main products of this industry are meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. There are issues regarding whether factory farming is sustainable and ethical.

Confinement at high stocking density is one part of a systematic effort to produce the highest output at the lowest cost by relying on economies of scale, modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade. There are differences in the way factory farming techniques are practiced around the world. There is a continuing debate over the benefits, risks and ethical questions of factory farming. The issues include the efficiency of food production; animal welfare; whether it is essential for feeding the growing global population; and the environmental impact (e.g. pollution) and health risks.

Environmental Protection Agency: Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs generally congregate animals, feed, manure, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures. Animal waste and wastewater can enter water bodies from spills or breaks of waste storage structures (due to accidents or excessive rain), and non-agricultural application of manure to crop land.

An AFO is a lot or facility (other than an aquatic animal production facility) where the following conditions are met: 

Animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility.

AFOs that meet the regulatory definition of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) may be regulated under the NPDES permitting program. The NPDES program regulates the discharge of pollutants from *point sources to waters of the United States. CAFOs are point sources, as defined by the CWA [Section 502(14)]. To be considered a CAFO, a facility must first be defined as an AFO.

Previous EPA regulations based the definition of CAFOs on the number of "animal units" confined. EPA no longer uses the term "animal unit," but instead refers to the actual number of animals at the operation to define a CAFO. Click here to view a brief summary of how the regulations define Large, Medium, and Small CAFOs (PDF).

*Please note that the NPDES only looks at "point source" discharges, not manure spreading.