Animal factories threaten community health by contaminating local soils and waterways, spraying toxic pesticides on feed crops, compromising air quality, and reducing quality of life for nearby residents.

Animal factories generate more annual waste than some U.S. cities, contaminating soils and local waterways. One of the most egregious effects of this is the smell. Stench from hog CAFOs in North Carolina and Iowa is so awful it inhibits residents from sitting outdoors, hosting cookouts, and hanging laundry. The odor permeates into their homes as well.

Moreover, residues of animal drugs and chemical feed additives can enter local waterways through manure lagoon seepage, runoff, and through the air. The long-term health impacts of the drugs are not well understood, however hormones commonly used in beef are linked to endocrine disruption and developmental disorders. E. coli and other common pathogens present in CAFO manures are environmentally persistent, and endanger both aquatic ecosystems and drinking water resources.

Manure lagoon ruptures also cause massive fish kills, harmful algal blooms, and aquatic dead zones, harming local ecosystems and ecosystem benefits.

From 2005 to 2014, pollution from hog CAFO lagoons in Illinois killed half of the fish in the state. Harmful algal blooms can also produce dangerous toxins that sicken or even kill people.


CAFOs use large amounts of conventional grain (primarily corn) and soy as feed ingredients, the two crops that alone make up the majority of pesticide use in the U.S. each year. During spraying, pesticides can drift miles away from crop fields into surrounding communities. Pesticides are known to cause adverse health effects like cancer, neurological complications, birth defects, respiratory conditions, and other ailments. Residents in farming communities, lower-income areas, and communities of color are particularly vulnerable to pesticide drift and the health risks that come with it.

Particulate matter and irritants, like hydrogen sulfide, nitrous oxide, and ammonia are often emitted from CAFOs and are known to cause respiratory problems, mental stress, and elevated blood pressure. Chronic exposure to animal factory emissions can also lead to asthma and asphyxiation.

Reducing overall consumption of meat and poultry proteins, sourcing certified humane, organic, and/or pasture-raised meats, and increasing portions of whole plant proteins in your diet can support production systems that do not put the health and wellbeing of nearby communities in jeopardy.

  • If Americans increased plant-based protein intake by 10 percent, we would conserve enough water to provide two-thirds of California’s water supply, providing more water to communities affected by drought.
  • Organic crop producers are prohibited from relying on toxic, synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, reducing the exposure of nearby communities to harmful pollutants and chemicals.
  • Organic and humane animal producers do not generate the enormous levels of manure, emissions, or particulate matter created by CAFOs, meaning nearby communities are less likely to experience the odors, irritants, and air pollutants associated with industrial animal factories.