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CAFO: A Four-Letter Word Found in School Cafeterias

By The Food Justice Team
Pace Environmental Policy Clinic

Note: Students from the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic launched their ePolicy blog with features spanning circus animal abuse, microgrid development, invasive plants and more.  The article below, by the Clinic’s Food Justice Team, reposted from ePolicy, walks you through the grisly alphabet soup of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. — John Cronin

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Drawing by Mallory Butlin

What is the quality of treatment of the livestock and poultry that are the source of meat served on a college campus? We three freshman enrolled in the new Environmental Policy Clinic course at Pace University decided to find out. This led us immediately to the acronym CAFO.

Honestly, like many students, we had never heard this term before we began researching our food supply. We know now, and what we learned has made us determined to do what we can to limit the purchase of food from this kind of operation. So what does Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) really mean? Let us take you behind each letter:

oncentrated: According to various dictionaries, concentrated means to be closely gathered together, compressed and thrown together in a pile. Right off the bat this doesn’t make CAFO sound too great. Are they trying to tell us that all of their animals are piled together in a tight location? No wonder people often call it “Confined Animal Feeding Operations!” About 100 or more cows are placed in a pen on a CAFO, all standing and sleeping in their own manure. Guess there’s not a lot of room for the animals to walk around, not that the CAFO operators mind…

nimal: Almost all farms have animals. But a CAFO designation, according to the EPA, is all about numbers: 700 dairy cows, 30,000 ducks, 10,000 swine, 10,000 sheep…. Well, you get the idea. A large chicken CAFO can have 125,000 or more birds! Seems a little packed, don’t you think?

eeding: is the action of consuming and supplying food for nourishment. It is the process of fattening and feeding an animal. Pasturelands are a form of providing food for the animals; however, on a CAFO animals are not given much time to graze. Rather, animals are fed corn and antibiotics. Feeding them corn makes caring for them easier and cheaper while the antibiotics make the animals grow faster and fatter. Who needs to go to a doctor when there are so many antibiotics in the meat coming from CAFOs?

peration: is a business or industry run on a large scale, often thought of as a practical or mechanical process that involves a particular form of work. CAFOs place a large amount of animals in a small space for maximum efficiency. So, in case you did not realize, CAFOs are not farms.

Hopefully this will help clarify what CAFOs really are.

Personally we feel that CAFOs should stand for Confined Animals Fighting Oppression. What do you think?

Comment or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #saynocafo.