Confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, are the only way we can provide enough pork to supply the large demand of a growing world population.
In 2017, the United States consumed 64.4 pounds of pork per capita and exported over 2 million metrics tons of pork to over 20 different countries. Pork was the highest consumed meat in the world at 40.4 percent in 2017, with chicken as its closest competitor at 32.4 percent. These Pork Checkoff facts prove it — people want pork. Consumers and agriculturalists alike must realize that if they want pork, we must use CAFOs to raise hogs.
CAFOs are one of the most controversial topics in the swine industry. The controversy created by CAFOs, especially here in Missouri, has been brought about by community members and members of the agriculture industry. Through all the controversy, we must look to the facts. We must support all forms of animal production, including CAFOs.
A CAFO is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “an animal feeding operation (AFO) with more than 1,000 animal units (an animal unit is defined as an animal equivalent of 1000 pounds live weight)…confined on site for more than 45 days during the year…”
Historically, hogs were raised outdoors. Land and labor were cheap and a lower amount of feed was needed for finishing hogs. Along with the rest of the agriculture industry, the swine industry has continued to change and modernize with new technology and practices.
We must face the fact that we can no longer raise hogs on a large scale out in a dirt lot. Production within CAFOs provides more protection for the hogs. It allows producers to control variables such as temperature, feed and water. Producers work hard to care for and raise happy, healthy hogs. They want to produce the best hogs possible to meet the demand of consumers and a growing population. Along with meeting consumer demand, CAFOs have many economic impacts.
Swine finishing operations provide positive economic impacts from the producer all the way up to the federal level. In 2017, Missouri had an estimated $914 million in cash receipts from the swine industry alone.
In 2013, The Commercial Agriculture Program (CAP) at University of Missouri released a report that analyzed the economic impact of a 2,480 head grow-to-finish operation, where hogs are brought into an operation weighing around 50 pounds and are fed until they reach market weight (approximately 275 pounds). Construction dollars and capital investments to build the facility were estimated at $650,200. Additional manure handling equipment costs were estimated at $55,000. Producers partnered with a large hog production facility to raise hogs through contract production. Producers received payment from the company in the forms of payment per pig space, or each hog that the facility could hold, which was approximately $41. They were also paid with fertilizer, or manure. The total compensation was estimated $101,680 on an annual basis. Indirect economic benefits were created through services that would be needed in the up-keep of the operation.
Although there are many positives to CAFOs, some only see the negatives. The main concern with CAFOs are odor and waste. However, many do not realize the extent of the regulations that CAFOs must follow.
CAFOs are regulated under the Clean Water Act. Producers work to prevent any issues when applying the manure that comes from these CAFOs. When it is appropriately applied, it can be a key player in providing nutrients and fertilizing crops. New technology also decreases the odor that is produced by these CAFOs.
CAFOs are safely regulated, boost the economy, provide an efficient way to produce products for consumers, and are the only way we are going to be able to provide the pork needed to feed the demand of consumers and a growing world population. Consumers and members of the agriculture industry must come together, support one another, and we must all support CAFOs.