Is the U.S. One Big Factory Farm?


Food and Water Watch just released this amazing interactive factory farm map of the United States, which is fascinating and terrifying at the same time – I can’t stop clicking through it. Below “the fold” are some eye-opening numbers that come attached to the map. I’ve been doing some digging of my own, but it’s (quite literally) tons of, shall we say, waste to wade through.

Take the map for a spin, and if you find anything interesting, or surpising, or frightening, or hopeful – please post it in the comments section.


  • There are 4 factory-farmed chickens for every single American.
  • U.S. hog factory farms added 4,600 hogs every day between 1997 and 2007.
  • U.S. factory-farm dairies added nearly 650 cows every day between 1997 and 2007.
  • Between 1997 and 2007, U.S. factory farms added 5,800 broiler chickens every hour.
  • U.S. industrial feedlots added nearly 1,100 beef cattle every day between 2002 and 2007.
  • The number of factory farmed broiler chickens doubled to 1.1 billion between 1997 and 2007.
  • The average size of U.S. hog factory farms grew by 42 percent to 5,144 between 1997 and 2007.
  • The average size of U.S. egg factory farms increased by half to 614,000 hens between 1997 and 2007.
  • The number of U.S. cows on factory-farm dairies nearly doubled to 4.9 million between 1997 and 2007.
  • The number of U.S. hogs on factory farms grew by more than a third to 62.9 million between 1997 and 2007.
  • The number of U.S. factory farm egg-laying hens increased by 24 percent to 266.5 million between 1997 and 2007.
  • The number of U.S. beef cattle on industrial feedlots grew by 17 percent to 13.5 million between 2002 and 2007.
  • Excess livestock manure applications to fields of crops is the fastest growing large source of the greenhouse gas methane.
  • There are more than one billion broiler chickens in the United States — more than three birds for every person in the country.
  • Nearly half of factory-farm egg-laying hens are located in just five states — Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, California and Pennsylvania.
  • The Government Accountability Office reported that the number of large livestock operations tripled from about 3,600 in 1982 to 12,000 in 2002.
  • A 2003 study found that living downwind from industrial hog operations reduced the property values of neighboring residential homes by approximately 10 percent.
  • Commercial confined livestock and poultry operations produce half a billion tons of manure each year, more than three times as much as that produced by the entire U.S. population.
  • The Government Accountability Office reported that storing large quantities of livestock manure on factory farms can emit “unsafe quantities” of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter.

Posted in Farming, Food Politics


  1. Jessica Johnson said...

    What do the colors on the map mean? You can click on the map, but you can’t tell what the colors mean.

  2. veganoutreach said...

    Every year — every month, actually — it is easier and easier to boycott factory farms. We can each make the world a better place by not supporting these horrors.

  3. Art Good said...

    I am shocked by the numbers and facts. I just wonder, what can we really do about it?

  4. vadoug said...

    What’s the big hoo-hah? Dirt is dirt, cows is cows, and pigs is pigs no matter how large or small the farm is. Is there any scientific study that indicates that "factory farmed" chicken breasts are somehow inferior to "mom and pop" chicken breasts?

  5. Livia said...

    I live in a county that, according to this map, has a "severe" level of factory farming of cattle. I’ve spent many hours driving around this beautiful county and disagree. What do they consider a "factory farm"? Is it a rancher who feeds out 100 steers in a lot that he raised from they time they were born? If so, well, that’s what I call a family farm. I consider myself fortunate to live in a place that still has a lot of family farms.

  6. Bill Rankin said...

    Great map! Thanks for posting. Here are some non-interactive versions I made last year for an exhibition on "ecological urbanism":

  7. Ana Luiza Mascagni said...

    This map reminded me of one that I recently saw on obesity rates by county ( There are definitely some disparities (like California, which has relatively high rates of factory farming and relatively low rates of obesity) but the similarities are interesting.Also, vadoug, there are indeed many scientific studies answering your question regarding health problems related to factory farmed animals, not to mention the research surrounding the fact that factory farming is environmentally and financially unsustainable. This article (,_Part_I__Foodborne_Illness_and.8.aspx) does a good job of summarizing data. More poignantly, though, I notice that you comment on most of Mark’s columns with similar rhetorical questions. Why exactly do you continue to come and read them if you ignore all of the information he provides?

  8. Marie Howlett said...

    @ ArtGood: change to a plant-based diet!!! Read Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows to understand why people eat meat, and it’s so easy to stop. Listen to some Propagandhi, Dead Prez if you prefer rap, and you’ll be good to go. We probably can’t stop it altogether, but you don’t have to be part of it.

  9. Patsy Simpson said...

    Although I live on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State where we have no factory farms, we would all be wise to learn as much as we can about them and why they are bad…for the environment, the economy and as a food source.

  10. Aiko Wax said...

    The colours are the density levels, from none to extreme. Click on "this amazing interactive factory farm map" in the first paragraph.

  11. Julia Cousineau said...

    Just stop eating meat please please please—-no demand = no cruel supply

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