I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this national conference to end factory farming; it is a very worthwhile and timely mission, in fact is long overdue. The emphasis of the conference quite logically is on large-scale confinement animal feeding operations, as these so-called CAFOs are the epitome of factory farming. I have been involved in the war against CAFOs for more than 15 years now, going back to the mid-1990s. While we have been winning more of the battles recently, we are a long way from winning the war. More of our meat, milk, and eggs are produced in CAFOs every year. First it was poultry, then beef, then pork, and now dairy production has been forced off independent family farms and into giant animal factories.
So, why haven’t we won the war? I am going to focus my response to that question on the economic reasons. I am one of the few agricultural economists who have been willing to critically evaluate CAFOs. I assume that’s the reason I was invited to this conference. First, I think most people have been led to believe that CAFOs are the most economically efficient means of producing animal products. Consumers are told that farmers can’t provide adequate meat, milk, and eggs for the hungry people of the world without CAFOs, or at least that food costs will be so high that many people won’t be able to afford adequate protein in their diets.