Factory Farms in Georgia
Fact Sheet • February 2011


ver the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given way to factory farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly packed facilities. In Georgia, there were 236,000 hogs, 35,000 dairy cows and more than 159 million chickens on the largest operations in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Georgia ranks first in the nation in factory-farmed broiler chickens.
production because they are not getting paid much for the livestock they raise. The rise of factory farming was no accident. It resulted from policy choices driven by big agribusinesses, especially meatpackers and processors that dominate the links in the food chain between livestock producers and consumers.

Chicken meat comes from billions of chickens raised on large-scale broiler chicken operations where farmers raise birds on contract for the few poultry processing companies that dominate the industry. The scale of poultry farms has
Concentration of factory farms in Georgia, taken from Dark red indicates the most severe density.

Total Factory-Farmed Broiler Chickens in Georgia

The silos and gentle meadows pictured on the labels of the food most Americans buy have little relation to how that food is actually produced. The significant growth in industrial-scale, factory-farmed livestock has contributed to a host of environmental, public health, economic and food safety problems. Tens of thousands of animals can generate millions of tons of manure annually, which pollutes water and air and can have health repercussions on nearby communities. Consumers in distant markets also feel the impacts, either through foodborne illness outbreaks or other public health risks, or through the loss of regional food systems. As consumers saw during the 2010 egg recall, food safety problems on even a few factory farms can end up in everyone’s refrigerators. Even the producers are not benefitting from this system of

Source: USDA.

About half of growers only have one or two processors nearby, so they have little choice but to accept whatever terms the companies offer,3 including requiring significant upgrades to their farms to secure contracts.4 New broiler houses often cost between $350,000 and $750,000 for the two facilities that most growers use.5 The contracts do not pay more to the farmers to make these required upgrades.6 Many contract poultry growers barely break even.7 Poultry growers lost money in 10 of the 15 years between 1995 and 2009.8 Factory farms cause extensive environmental damage and leave communities with fewer independent family farms, unsafe water, reduced air quality and depressed economies. Instead of benefitting, consumers face foodborne illness outbreaks and public health threats like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and fewer real choices about how their food is produced. Congress, regulatory agencies and state goverments need to put a stop to the policies that have allowed these facilities to proliferate. They must create and enforce farm and food policies that allow farmers to make a living and do not harm communities, the environment or public health. Take action: Go to to learn more about factory farms in Illinois and to take action to stop the spread of factory farms. grown rapidly, as growers try to eke out a living by increasing the volume of birds they produce. Broiler production is concentrated in southeastern states and concentrated within states into localized clusters around processing plants.1 Three-fifths of broilers are raised in Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. The number of factory-farmed broiler chickens in Georgia nearly doubled from 111.5 million in 1997 to 204.9 million in 2007. The average-sized broiler operation in Georgia increased by 7.1 percent over the decade to more than 173,600. Although the poultry companies own the chickens and the feed that goes into them, the farmers are responsible for managing the manure. In many dense poultry production areas, the volume of poultry litter greatly exceeds the capacity of nearby farmland. The more than 17.5 million broiler chickens on factory farms in Franklin County, Georgia, produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Philadelphia metro area, and the more than 10.7 million broiler chickens on factory farms in Gilmer County, Georgia, produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Seattle metro area. The poultry companies control every step of broiler production — they own the birds from the egg to the grocery store. The companies exert tremendous pressure on the farmers that raise the birds, often under abusive contracts that dictate to farmers how to raise the chickens and then collect the birds when they have reached their full weight.2 Endnotes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 MacDonald, James M. USDA ERS. “The Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production.” EIB-38. June 2008 at 2. Taylor, C. Robert. Auburn University. “The Many Faces of Power in the Food System.” Presentation at the DOJ/FTC Workshop on Merger Enforcement. February 17, 2004 at 6. MacDonald, James M. USDA ERS. “The Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production.” EIB-38. June 2008 at 13. American Antitrust Institute’s Transition Report on Competition Policy: Chapter 8 Fighting Food Inflation through Competition. 2008 at 304. MacDonald, James M. and William D. McBride. USDA ERS. “The Transformation of U.S. Livestock Agriculture: Scale, Efficiency, and Risks.” EIB-43. January 2009 at 7 and 18. Moeller, David. Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG). “Livestock Production Contracts: Risks for Family Farmers.” March 22, 2003 at 5. MacDonald, James M. USDA ERS. “The Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production.” EIB-38. June 2008 at 22, 24. Taylor, C. Robert and David Domina. “Restoring Economic Health to Contract Poultry Production.” May 13, 2010 at 9.

For more information: web: email: phone: (202) 683-2500 (DC) • (415) 293-9900 (CA) Copyright © February 2011 Food & Water Watch

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