Animal factories threaten pollinator health through reliance on pollinator-toxic chemicals, destruction of pollinator habitats and food sources, and generation of excess toxic waste.

Mass production of animal feed crops, like corn and soy, use large volumes of chemicals that kill pollinators and other beneficial insects and destroy critical pollinator habitats.

Over one-third of the corn grown in the U.S. is used as animal feed, and more than 90 percent of conventional corn is treated with neonicotinoids.


Neonicotinoids are a class of extremely long-lasting insecticides that can build up in the soil and contaminate nearby streams and other water bodies. Exposure to neonicotinoids can cause sub-lethal and lethal effects in pollinators and other beneficial species, including paralysis, tremors, other neurological problems, weakened immunity, impaired reproductive capacities, diminished survival, and mortality.

Habitat loss is also a significant driver of pollinator decline. Persistent agrochemicals used on animal feed crops contaminate the habitats and resources upon which pollinator species rely. For example, milkweed is a primary food source and nesting site for monarch butterflies. Glyphosate, an herbicide used in mass corn production, kills milkweed, and is behind the rapid decline of North American monarch butterfly populations. Wild areas are often destroyed to plant monoculture corn and soy fields or to build animal factories, fragmenting pollinator and other wildlife habitats.

The enormous volumes of waste produced in animal factories is often contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, or animal drug residues that pose direct threats to pollinator species. CAFO manure can enter soils through ground application, injection, and “manure lagoon” leaks. Pollinators may be exposed to parasites, viruses, and bacteria, as well as residues of animal drugs, pesticides, or heavy metals, all of which may be present in manure from animal factories.

Manure applied to cropland or leaking from lagoons may pose particular risk to many species of ground-nesting bees and dung-nesting pollinators. Lead, and other heavy metals found in CAFO waste, have been detected in the feathers and tissues of hummingbirds and other pollinating birds. These metals have been correlated with behavioral changes, as well as decreased growth and reproductive capacity. Heavy metal contamination has also been correlated with declines in solitary wild bee populations.

Excessive use of tetracycline, an antibiotic used on hog, turkey, and beef CAFOs, has been found to decrease gut microbes in honey bees, increasing their risk of pathogen exposure and mortality.


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 help protect the pollinator species that are critical to a sustainable food supply.

  • Certified organic plant proteins do not use pollinator-toxic agrochemicals used in CAFO feeds, preventing negative health effects, habitat loss and fragmentation, and food source loss for bees, monarchs, hummingbirds, and other important pollinators.
  • Growing organic plant proteins does not generate enormous volumes of waste contaminated with heavy metals, pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics.
  • Organic and non-GMO plant proteins rely on pollination from bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, so it is in the farmer’s interest to protect these species.
  • Organic animal farmers are required to use organic corn and soy for livestock feed, and conserve biodiversity by supporting pollinator habitats.
  • Rotational grazing and cropping, which are not present on CAFOs, increase biodiversity and support pollinator species.