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Factory farming - what is it?

Factory farming - what is it actually?

Would you like 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 packaging, it is far from reality on most fattening farms. The animals that are produced today for meat, milk or Fur are unfortunately only high-performance machines in factory farming.

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

You can find a brief overview here in advance:

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

Tip: If you could use some inspiration in the fight 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 dictionaries define the term as follows: Factory farmingIntensive livestock farming, also known as intensive animal husbandry, is the mass keeping of animals in cramped, stressful and usually inappropriate conditions.₁

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

Notice: Those involved in factory farming prefer to use the terms "intensive livestock farming" or "modern livestock farming". You can see for yourself here whether this form of farming is really modern and should be modern.

Which animals are bred in mass farming?

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

  • Cows (dairy cows, fattening cattle and fattening 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 problems and justified criticism rest above all on ethical and ecological pillars. Here are some Disadvantages of this form of intensive animal husbandry:

  • Confined spaces and cages without freedom of movement
  • Housing in stables without daylight
  • Separation from dams directly after birth
  • Life expectancy of animals is very short
  • Animal mistreatment (e.g. beak shortening, tail shortening 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 farming at top speed does not correspond to human values. Animals are emotional beings. In turbo farming, they can neither live in their natural environment nor pursue 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 are animals still kept in factory farming?

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 primarily from the automation of feeding, but also from volume discounts on feed.
  • More animal foods: Highly sought-after foods can be produced very quickly and cheaply.
  • 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.

Everything may be cheaper, but in the end it is the animals who pay the price. And our environment, and therefore we humans ourselves, also have to contend with severe consequences. More on this in a moment.

Facts & figures on factory farming

To get an understanding of the scale of the problem, statistics on factory farming are incredibly important. Here are some pertinent facts:

  • 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. This means that 45 million chickens, 4 million pigs and 200,000 cattle die for nothing.₃
  • It takes 15,415 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef.₄
  • 733 tons of antibiotics were used in agricultural livestock farming in Germany alone in 2017.₅
  • Around 61.8 percent of arable land in Germany is used to grow animal feed and only 21 percent for direct food production.₆
  • Every year, 2.6 million hectares of land are cultivated worldwide and almost 48 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted in order to subsequently throw away the food.₇
  • BUND found antibiotic-resistant germs on 88 percent of the turkey meat samples purchased from discounters.₈

Tip: You can also find more informative facts in the 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 also go hand in hand with some of the advantages already mentioned. Here are some reasons for the existence of factory farming:

  • 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 for this. Ultimately, however, 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 and eggs will naturally also increase.₉ This is another reason for the existence of factory farming.
  • Increasing meat consumption: However, the increasing demand for meat is not only due to the strong growth in the world's population. Particularly in densely populated Asian countries (e.g. China and India), interest in meat is growing. India has always been a country of vegetarians - but now people are being tempted by the example of industrialized countries to consume meat.₁₀
  • High interest in leather & fur products: Minks, foxes and chinchillas are actually wild animals. But they are bred in factory farming to meet the demand for fur clothing. Cows, for example, are also bred for leather production.
  • Demand for foods with animal components: Classic milk, eggs or cheeses would not exist without animal ingredients. Animal gelatine is also used for cornflakes, yogurts and 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 got to know factory farming in more detail. But to what extent does this form of animal farming affect animals, the environment and us humans? Find out more here.

Consequences for the animal world

First of all, I would like to give you an idea of the effects on the animal world. Here are some examples of the consequences:

  • Diseases: Factory farms and battery cages are a springboard for diseases such as mad cow disease, bird flu and swine fever. With cramped and unhygienic housing in their own excrement, it is hardly surprising that farms have such a high consumption of antibiotics.
  • Physical pain: Pigs' curly tails are cut off while they are still alive and their teeth are ground down. In chickens, beak trimming 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 ever seen the reaction of a mother cow when her calf is taken away immediately after birth will never forget it.
  • Self-injury: Behavioral disorders such as cannibalism are unfortunately commonplace due to the stress in factory farming. For example, pigs nibble off each other's ears or chickens peck each other to death.
  • Species extinction: The consequences of factory farming do not only affect the animals in the cramped cages themselves. Ultimately, the majority of all animals around the world suffer as a result. For example, the rainforest habitat has to make way for pastures and arable land. More on this in a moment.

Consequences for the environment

Factory farming has a particular impact on our environment. Here are 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 crops generally do not provide sufficient quantities or the necessary nutrients. In South America, for example, the Amazon rainforest is cut down to grow soy. You can find out more about this in the article about the Deforestation of the forests.
  • Global warming: Factory farming contributes significantly to the climate change contribute. Animal transportation, husbandry and slaughter, as well as the cow itself (methane) emit greenhouse gases. Global warming in turn results in increasing disasters such as forest fires, which in turn lead to an accelerated extinction of species.
  • Soil degradation: The Liquid manure from factory farming may promote crop rotation in the short term, but it depletes the soil in the long term. Pesticides, fertilizers, nitrates and phosphates - these agricultural products do not simply disappear. For example, they poison the soil 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. for growing feed, drinking or cleaning stables), then this naturally has a decisive influence on the supply of drinking water, especially in rather dry regions. You can find out more in the article about Water shortage.

Consequences for us humans

Of course, factory farming also has economic and health consequences for us humans. Here are a few examples:

  • 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 contaminated with nitrate from agriculture.₁₁ However, it is not only in our own country that food from factory farming leads to water shortages. People in arid regions in particular have to suffer as a result. For example, when fields in warm South America have to be irrigated with animal feed.
  • Slurry transportation: Factory farming produces significantly more liquid manure than the farms can use to fertilize their fields. This results in additional transport costs for them.
  • Odors: Of course, the odors associated with factory farming are also a burden on the environment. Regional tourism, for example, is adversely affected.
  • Mental stress: Already the sight of Cruelty to animals on the TV screen brings tears to the eyes of many people. However, working 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 simply ignore. The psychological strain is extremely high.₁₂

What can you do in everyday life against factory farming?

What can be done against factory farming?

The solutions in the fight for fair and humane treatment of animals are just as simple as the causes. 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 meat industry than the animals themselves, then giving up meat is the best way to do it. It doesn't even have to be complete abstinence. Even if you appreciate the origins of meat more and only eat it once a week, for example, you're already making a big difference.

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've replaced traditional cow's milk with oat milk - and in a double sense, I'm missing absolutely nothing. In the same way, I now enjoy vegan cheese (almond-based) and make sauce with vegan soy cream.

Here you will find lots of simple tips for getting started vegan life.

Reduce or stop consumption of products made from animal material

Whether it's leather shoes, down jackets, woollen 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 items of clothing.

I recommend you to consciously sustainable fashion to be preferred. You can also get more tips on this in the article on the so-called Slow Fashion.

Give preference to fair meat and value the origin

Even if you find it particularly difficult to make the switch, there is another good way to be more sustainable with meat. Fortunately, organic products are generally not from factory farming. Meat, milk and eggs from organic and preferably regional farms are certainly a good alternative for you.

Supporting animal welfare organizations

Of course, you can also make a big difference by providing financial or active support to organizations that are committed to protecting animals. The people responsible stand up for the rights of animals every day.

You can find out 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 make use of it! On the many petition portals today, you can start an appeal or a list of signatures at any time to change a grievance in our society. In this way, you can campaign for stricter laws to protect livestock, for example.

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

View documentations

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

  • Cowspiracy: This documentary uncovers the abysses of the meat industry. It also sheds light on why environmental organizations often relativize meat consumption and its connection to climate change.
  • Food Inc.: The documentary from 2008 conveys the harmful influence of the food industry on our health and our environment.
  • Dominion: This documentary was only published in 2018 and conveys very current conditions at companies that were observed by hidden cameras. More at Dominion film.
  • EarthlingsThe film was made in 2005 and shows truly memorable footage of factory farming.

Read books

You can educate yourself and ultimately others about factory farming not only through stark images in documentaries, but also by reading books about animals and how they are kept. 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 is burning up animals, ruining farmers, wasting 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: Can you think of any other documentaries or books that might have opened your eyes? Then please write a comment.

Factory farming is no longer in keeping with the times

That is, of course, my personal opinion. But after watching the embedded video at the latest, anyone who thinks factory farming is in keeping with the times should question their opinion. After all, we are cutting down rainforests in order to breed animals all over the world at high speed, cutting off parts of their bodies so that they don't injure themselves due to the stress in cramped cages with no daylight and giving them antibiotics so that they have any chance of survival. Factory farming can only be called "modern animal husbandry" because it is profit-oriented - 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.

Stay animal-friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Want to know more about the current challenges facing our society? Then be sure to take a look at the article on 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 Köln: Tons of food in the bin? That sucks! [07.10.2019].

₄ Albert Schweitzer Foundation (2015): What's behind a kilogram of beef, available at [14.01.2020].

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

₆ Forum Moderne Landwirtschaft e. V.: Are the animals eating 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 (as of June 2015). WWF_Studie_Das_grosse_Wegschmeissen.pdf. [09.08.2019].

₈ Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND): Industrial livestock farming 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 at 18.07.2019). [14.08.2019].

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

₁₁ Umweltinstitut München e.V.: Factory farming endangers our drinking water, 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 linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

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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