How many animals are in factory farms in the United States?
Over 23 million land animals are killed in the US every day
Every year approximately 72 billion land animals are killed for food globally. The US kills about 10 billion land animals a year, of which over 9 billion are chickens. Here is a breakdown of the number of farmed animals killed every year in the United States:
- 9,300,000,000 chickens
- 3,800,000,000 fishes
- 214,000,000 turkeys
- 124,000,000 pigs
- 33,000,000 cows
- 23,000,000 ducks
What is a factory farm?
Factory farming is a system specifically designed to maximize the production of meat, eggs, and dairy at the lowest cost possible. These farms intensively confine large numbers of animals in small spaces such as cages or crates. Most spend their entire lives inside a shed and never feel the sunlight or breathe fresh air.
Factory farms –also called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)– have at least 125,000 chickens raised for meat, 82,000 hens used for eggs, 2,500 pigs, 1,000 cows raised for meat, or 700 cows used for dairy.
Factory farming in numbers
Reducing costs at the expense of the animals
To reduce the costs of housing thousands of animals, farmers put pigs in cages that are barely larger than their own bodies, without space to even turn around. They keep six or more hens in wire cages, each with an area similar to an iPad where they won’t be able to spread their wings in their entire lives.
Hens in factory farms lay an average of 296 eggs per year—almost one a day and many times more than the dozen per year they would naturally lay and care for if allowed. Hens used for the production of eggs have their beaks cut to prevent the economic losses resulting from them pecking at each other due to the extreme stress of living in such confinement for months on end.
This constant effort to obtain the maximum benefit from the animals has a high cost for them.
Pigs are routinely mutilated in factory farms
Factory farmers routinely engage in cruel practices such as mutilating animals without anesthesia to maximize profits and reduce losses. Pig farmers cut the tails and teeth of piglets at just a few days old without painkillers. They do this because the pigs will be so stressed in the fattening pens that they will bite each other. Instead of improving their living conditions, farmers choose to mutilate the animals. They cut the testicles of the piglets without pain killers because consumers, unaware of its consequences, like the flavor of meat from castrated pigs.
Chickens used for meat live with tens of thousands of other birds in windowless sheds with a floor of litter mixed with their feces and urine. In addition to intensive confinement, companies genetically select animals to produce as much as their bodies can take. So-called ‘fast-growing’ chickens gain so much weight at such an accelerated and unnatural rate that, just in 2021, over two hundred million chickens die of heart attacks and other problems only a few weeks after being born.
Calves and cows suffer for the dairy industry
In order to obtain milk, dairy farmers artificially inseminate cows so they start to lactate. Once the calf is born, they will separate him from his mother within a couple of hours and put him alone in a hutch for months. He will never see his mother again. And when the horns start to grow, they will burn them. If the calf is a female, they will cut her tail and will use her, as they did with her mother, to take her milk in a repeated cycle of pregnancy, births, and separation from her babies that continues for years. Cows today produce more and more milk to the point that many suffer mastitis and osteoporosis and are considered “spent” and killed after just a few years.
If someone were to do any of these practices to the dogs or cats we share our homes with, they would be arrested, and convicted for animal cruelty. Cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals don’t deserve less consideration and protection from us.
Animal Equality's work to End Factory Farming
Selected Media coverage
The New York Times
United States - July 6, 2017
The New York Times describes how virtual reality can be used to bring its viewers inside places they may not otherwise get to travel. For animal activists, this tool can show, first-hand, what animals go through inside the hidden walls of factory farms.