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Factory farming - what is it?

Factory farming - what is it actually?

Do you want to know more about Factory farming experience? Then you've come to the right place. Cows and pigs on lush, green meadows - that's what we want. But even though this rural idyll can still be seen on many product packages - it is far from reality on most fattening farms. The animals that nowadays produce meat, milk or Fur are unfortunately only high-performance machines in factory farming.

In this article I would like to introduce you to everything you need to know about factory farming. From the definition, to facts and figures, causes and consequences, to the things we can do in everyday life against the problem.

Here you can find a short overview in advance:

  1. Definition
  2. Causes
  3. Follow
  4. What to do?
  5. Closing words

Tip: If you could use some inspiration in fighting for animals, take a look at the Most Effective Animal Welfare Quotes.

What is factory farming?

Mass rearing of ducks
Ducks in factory farming / Image source: PETA Deutschland e.V.

Business lexicons define the term as follows: Factory farming, also called intensive livestock farming or intensive animal husbandry, is the mass keeping of animals under confining, stressful and usually not species-appropriate circumstances.₁

The goal is to produce as many animal products as possible at the lowest possible cost. The purpose is, among other things, the industrial production of meat, milk, eggs, leather and fur. In our society, factory farming tends to be rejected. However, it is massively supported by consumer behavior.

Notice: Those involved in factory farming prefer to use the terms "intensive animal husbandry" or "modern animal husbandry". Whether this form of husbandry is really modern and should be modern, you can make up your own mind here.

What animals are being mass farmed in the first place?

We have certainly all seen pictures of cows, pigs or chickens in factory farms. But which animals are actually basically kept in this way? Here is a brief overview:

  • Cows (Dairy cows, beef cattle and veal calves)
  • Pigs (fattening pigs and breeding sows)
  • Sheep (e.g. for meat, milk and wool)
  • Chickens (broilers and laying hens)
  • Ducks (e.g. for meat and clothing)
  • Geese (e.g. for down and meat)
  • Turkeys (e.g. fattening turkey)
  • Minks, Foxes & Chinchillas (e.g. for furs)
  • Fish (Aquaculture and "wild")
  • Crustaceans (e.g. crabs, lobsters and shrimps)
  • Rabbit (e.g. for meat, fur and angora wool, as laboratory animals and pets).
  • Bees (honey bees)

Why factory farming is a problem and subject to criticism

The problem and justified criticism rests primarily on ethical and environmental pillars. Here are some Disadvantages of this form of intensive animal husbandry:

  • Cramped spaces and cages without freedom of movement
  • Keeping in stables without daylight
  • Separation from dams directly after birth
  • Life expectancy of animals is very short
  • Animal mistreatment (e.g. beak trimming, tail trimming or Chick Shredding)
  • Cruelty to animals - animal rights are disregarded
  • Treatment with antibiotics and residues in meat
  • Overbreeding
  • Inadequate controls
  • Environmental problems as a result

Raising animals in factory farms at top speed is not in line with human values. Animals are emotional beings. In turbo-housing, they can neither live under their natural environment nor follow their original instincts.

Tip: There are certain Tools of factory farmingwith which the animals are adapted to the industry. In the linked article I present them to you, so you can make yourself a picture of it.

Why do people still keep animals in factory farms?

Despite the many problems, there must be a purpose to factory farming somewhere, right? So that this is not lost, you will find here the few advantages of intensive animal husbandry:

  • Cost benefits for farmers: Those who keep a lot of livestock on one area can benefit mainly through automation of feeding but also through volume discounts on feed.
  • More animal foods: Inexpensive way can produce food in high demand very quickly.
  • Cost benefits for consumers: Ultimately, consumers also benefit from the cost savings made by fattening operators. Meat, eggs and milk, for example, are very cheap.

It may all be cheaper, but the price compensation is ultimately paid mainly by the animals. And also our environment and thus we humans have to fight with heavy consequences. More about this in a moment.

Facts & figures on factory farming

To get an understanding of the scope of the problem, statistics on factory farming are tremendously important. Here are some facts to go with them:

  • In Germany alone, around 745 million animals live and die in factory farming every year.₂
  • Every year, 356 million kilograms of meat are thrown away in Germany. 45 million chickens, 4 million pigs and 200,000 cattle therefore die in vain.₃
  • The production of one kilogram of beef requires 15,415 liters of water.₄
  • 733 tons of antibiotics were used in agricultural animal husbandry in Germany alone in 2017.₅
  • About 61.8 percent of arable land in Germany is used to grow livestock feed and only 21 percent is used for direct food production.₆
  • Globally, 2.6 million hectares of land are farmed each year and nearly 48 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted, only to have the food subsequently thrown away.₇
  • BUND has found antibiotic-resistant germs on 88 percent of turkey meat samples purchased from discounters.₈

Tip: By the way, you can also get more meaningful facts in the following articles Veganism statistics and Vegetarianism statistics.

Causes of factory farming

Causes of factory farming - meat consumption

Basically, the causes of factory farming are explained quite simply. Logically, of course, they are partly accompanied by the already mentioned advantages. Here are a reasons for the existence of animal breeding at maximum speed:

  • Profit orientation of the economy: If there is an opportunity, usually a legal one, to produce meat as cheaply as possible, then it will be used. In principle, you can't blame the operators of fattening stables at all. But ultimately it is this profit orientation that is responsible for the enormous animal suffering in factory farming.
  • Global population growth: Global population growth is rapid. If the world's population grows by 82,377,000 people every year, the global demand for food such as meat, milk or eggs naturally increases as well.₉ This is also a reason for the existence of factory farming.
  • Increasing meat consumption: However, the increasing demand for meat is not only due to the strong growth of the world population. Particularly in the densely populated Asian region (e.g. in China and India), interest in meat is growing quite fundamentally. India has actually always been the land of vegetarians - but now it is being tempted to consume meat by the example of the industrialized countries.₁₀
  • High interest in leather & fur products: Minks, foxes & chinchillas are actually wild animals. But you in particular are bred in factory farming to meet the demand for fur clothing. Cows are also bred for leather production, for example.
  • Demand for foods with animal components: Classic milk, eggs or cheese varieties would not exist without animal ingredients. And animal gelatine is also used for cornflakes, yogurts or Parmesan cheese. (see also Foods that are surprisingly not vegetarian and vegan)

Effects and consequences of factory farming

Factory farming and the consequences for the environment

From the definition to the problem and its facts to the causes, we have now learned a little more about factory farming. But to what extent does this form of animal husbandry affect animals, the environment and us humans? Find out more here.

Consequences for wildlife

First, let me give you a picture of the impact on wildlife. Here are some examples of corresponding consequences:

  • Diseases: Mass housing and battery cages are springboards for diseases such as mad cow disease, avian flu and swine fever. With the cramped and unhygienic conditions in their own excrement, it is little wonder that farms have such a high consumption of antibiotics.
  • Physical pain: Pigs have their curly tails cut off while they are still alive and their teeth are ground. In the case of chickens, so-called beak clipping and the shredding of male chicks are unfortunately common practice. Factory farming means above all physical suffering. But not only that.
  • Mental suffering: Animals are sentient beings, just like us humans. Anyone who has seen the reaction of a mother cow when her calf is taken away from her immediately after birth will never forget it.
  • Self-injury: Behavioral disorders such as cannibalism are unfortunately commonplace in the stressful conditions of factory farming. For example, pigs nibble each other's ears or chickens peck each other to the bone.
  • Species extinction: The consequences of factory farming do not only affect the animals in the cramped cages themselves. Basically, the majority of all animals around the world ultimately suffer. For example, the rainforest habitat has to give way to cattle pastures and arable land. More on that in a moment.

Consequences for the environment

Factory farming also affects our environment in a very special way. Here you can find some examples of its ecological consequences:

  • Deforestation of the (rain) forests: Farmers have to import high-protein animal feed (especially genetically modified soybeans) because their own cultivation usually provides neither the sufficient quantities nor the required nutrients. In South America, for example, the Amazon rainforest is cleared for the cultivation of soy. You can learn more about this in the article about the Deforestation.
  • Global Warming: Factory farming makes a decisive contribution to the climate change with. Both animal transport, husbandry and slaughter, and the cow itself (methane) emit greenhouse gases. Global warming in turn results in increasing disasters such as forest fires, which in turn result in accelerated species extinction.
  • Soil degradation: The Manure from factory farming promotes crop rotation in the short term - but in the long term it leaches the soil. Pesticides, fertilizers, nitrates and phosphates - the agents from agriculture do not simply disappear. For example, they poison soils and nearby rivers. (see also Soil erosion)
  • Water scarcity: If a kilogram of beef requires a total of 15,415 liters of water (e.g. growing feed, drinking or cleaning stalls), then this naturally has a decisive impact on the supply of drinking water, especially in rather dry regions. Learn more in the article about Water shortage.

Consequences for us humans

Of course, factory farming also has consequences for us humans, both economically and in terms of health. Here are some examples of this:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotic-resistant germs were found in almost all turkey meat samples in discount stores. One consequence for the human body, for example, is that the effect of taking antibiotics diminishes.
  • Water scarcity: More than two-thirds of our groundwater is polluted with nitrates from agriculture.₁₁ But it is not only in our own country that food from factory farming leads to water shortages. People in dry regions in particular have to suffer. For example, when fields in warm South America have to be irrigated with animal feed later.
  • Manure transports: Factory farming produces significantly more slurry than the farms can use to fertilize their fields. This results in additional costs for them for removal.
  • Odors: Of course, the odors associated with factory farming are also a burden on the surrounding area. For example, regional tourism is adversely affected as a result.
  • Mental stress: Already the sight of cruelty to animals on the TV screen brings tears to many people's eyes. But the work in huge fattening farms, where as much animal food as possible has to be produced as cheaply as possible, is certainly not something that employees can easily suppress. The psychological strain is extremely high.₁₂

What can you do in everyday life against factory farming?

What can be done against factory farming?

Just as simple as the causes are basically also the solutions in the fight for a species-appropriate and fair treatment of animals. Here are some solutions that you can use in your everyday life to make a statement against factory farming.

Reduce or stop meat consumption

If you would rather hurt the mass industry of meat and not the animals themselves, then giving up meat is the best way to do that. It does not even have to be the complete renunciation. Even if you value the origin of meat more and only eat it once a week, for example, you are already achieving a great deal.

In the article Become a vegetarian you get the best tips for it!

Generally avoid animal ingredients in food

Conscious meat consumption can already make a big difference. But if you avoid animal-based foods altogether, your impact in the fight for fair animal husbandry is even greater. For example, I have replaced classic cow's milk with oat milk - and I miss absolutely nothing in the ambiguous sense. In the same way, I now enjoy vegan cheese (almond-based) and cook myself sauce with vegan soy cream.

Here you get many simple tips for the start into the vegan life.

Reduce or stop consumption of products made from animal material

Whether it's leather shoes, down jackets, wool blankets or fur coats - if it's real animal material, it's highly likely that an animal had to suffer for it. As a consumer, you can counteract the underlying factory farming by consciously avoiding such garments.

I recommend you to consciously sustainable fashion to prefer. You can get more tips about this in the article about the so-called Slow Fashion.

Prefer fair meat and value the origin

Even if you find the switch particularly difficult, you still have another good option for dealing with meat in a more sustainable way. Fortunately, organic products are usually not from factory farms. Meat, milk and eggs from organic and preferably regional farms are then certainly a good alternative for you.

Support animal welfare organizations

Of course, you can also make a big difference by financially or actively supporting organizations that are dedicated to the protection of animals. The people in charge stand up for the rights of animals every day.

You can learn more about this in the article about the best animal welfare organizations.

Start petitions

We are so incredibly well connected these days - it would be a shame if we didn't take advantage of it! On the many petition portals today, you can always start an appeal or a signature list that should change a grievance in our society. In this way, for example, you can campaign for stricter laws to protect livestock.

You can learn more about this in the detailed article about the Starting online petitions.

View documentations

The pictures from this article are still relatively harmless. The impressions from films leave their impact much more impressive. If you want to know even more about factory farming, you should definitely watch the following documentaries, learn from them and share your knowledge with others:

  • Cowspiracy: This documentary exposes the abysses of the meat industry. It also sheds light on why environmental organizations often put meat consumption and its connection to climate change into perspective.
  • Food Inc.: The 2008 documentary conveys the harmful impact of the food industry on our health and our environment.
  • Dominion: This documentary was only released in 2018 and conveys very recent conditions of farms observed by hidden cameras. More at Dominion film.
  • Earthlings: The film is from 2005 and shows really memorable footage from factory farming.

Read books

Not only by watching stark images in documentaries, but also by reading books about animals and how they are kept, you can educate yourself and ultimately others about factory farming. Here are some books you should definitely read:

  • The pig system*: How animals are tortured, farmers are driven to ruin and consumers are deceived, by Matthias Wolfschmidt.
  • The disposable cow*: How our agriculture burns animals, ruins farmers, wastes resources and what we can do about it, by Tanja Busse.
  • Eat animals*, by Jonathan Safran Foer.
  • Peace Food*: How giving up meat and milk heals body and soul, by Rüdiger Dahlke.
  • Animals think*: On the Rights of Animals and the Limits of Man, by Richard David Precht.
  • The soul of animals*: Faces. Feelings. Stories, by Sabine Remy-Schwabenthan and Walter Schels.

Question: Are there any other documentaries or books that might have opened your eyes? Then feel free to write a comment.

Factory farming is no longer in keeping with the times


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Of course, this is my personal opinion. But at the latest after the embedded video, everyone who considers factory farming to be contemporary should question their opinion on it. After all, we are cutting down rainforests in order to breed animals all over the world with them at high speed, cutting off parts of their bodies so that they do not injure themselves due to the stress in cramped and daylightless cages, and administering antibiotics to them so that they have any chance at all of surviving. Factory farming may only be called "modern animal husbandry" because it functions in a profit-oriented manner - and not at all because it is in keeping with the times.

What is your opinion on factory farming? And do you have any questions or suggestions about the article? Then I look forward to your comments.

Be always kind to animals,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Do you want to know more about the current challenges of our society? Then definitely take a look at the article about the biggest environmental problems of our timewhich are also accelerated by factory farming.

₁ O. Wendel: Mass animal husbandry, available at [14.01.2020].

₂ Albert Schweitzer Foundation: Factory farming (as of 2017), available at [14.01.2020].

₃ Westdeutscher Rundfunk Cologne: Tons of food in the trash? Vomit! [07.10.2019].

₄ Albert Schweitzer Stiftung (2015): Das steckt hinter einem Kilogramm Beindfleisch, available at [14.01.2020].

₅ PETA Deutschland e.V.. (2018): Antibiotic use in German stables, available at [14.01.2020].

₆ Forum Moderne Landwirtschaft e. V.: Are the animals eating away our grain? (As of July 2016). [09.08.2019].

₇ Noleppa, S.; Cartsburg, M.; WWF Germany (2015): Das große Wegschmeissen - Vom Acker bis zum Verbraucher: Ausmaß und Umwelteffekte der Lebensmittelverschwendung in Deutschland (Status: June 2015). WWF_Study_The_Great_Waste.pdf. [09.08.2019].

₈ Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND). (BUND): Industrial animal husbandry needs antibiotics - and increases the risk of resistant bacteria, available at [14.01.2020].

₉ Statista GmbH (2019): World population growth, given in different time units (as of July 18, 2019). [14.08.2019].

₁₀ Sebastian Zang: Meat Consumption in India, available at [14.01.2020].

₁₁ Umweltinstitut München e.V.: Die Massentierhaltung gefährdet unser Trinkwasser, available at [14.01.2020].

₁₂ Carina Pachner, Michael Unger (2015): Arbeiten im Schlachthof, available at [14.01.2020].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!


Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

2 thoughts on “Massentierhaltung – Was ist das eigentlich?”

  1. Thank you for the valuable information. One thing I have learned here in any case: we must LOOK. And then each of us must draw the consequences for ourselves!

    1. Hello Marianne!

      Thank you so much for your feedback! Look and act, exactly 🙂

      Happy Easter Monday,

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