CAFO or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations are agricultural meat, dairy, or egg facilities where animals in large numbers are raised in a controlled environment. It is an intensive animal feeding operation (AFO) in which over 1,000 animal units are stabled or confined and fed or maintained for over 45 days or more in a year. An animal unit is the equivalent of 1,000 pounds of “live” animal weight.


They are governed by regulations that restrict how much waste can be distributed and the quality of the waste materials. According to the sources, there are around 212,000 AFOs in the United States. CAFOs are regulated under the NPDES permitting program which regulates the discharge of pollutants from point sources to waters of the United States.

As waste materials released from CAFOs have the potential to contribute pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics to the environment, therefore it becomes important to manage or recycle this waste efficiently to reduce environmental damage.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has categorized CAFOs in three categories, ordered in terms of capacity: large, medium and small.

AnimalLarge CAFOMedium CAFOSmall CAFO
Cattle or cow or calf pairs1,000 or more300 to 999Less than 300
Mature dairy cattle700 or more200 to 699Less than 200
Swine2,500 or more750 to 2,499Less than 750
Turkeys55,000 or more16,500 to 54,999Less than 16,500
Laying hens or broilers30,000 or more9,000 to 29,999Less than 9,000
Chickens other than laying hens125,000 or more37,500 to 124,999Less than 37,500
Laying hens82,000 or more25,000 to 81,999Less than 25,000

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