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Brain Food: CAFO January 26, 2010

Filed under: Food Definitions — Natalie Aldern @ 9:34 am
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To know your food, sometimes you have to speak the language.

Definition: CAFO: Abbreviation for “concentrated animal feeding operation.” CAFO is defined as any facility with more than 1000 animal units confined on site, or an AFO (Animal Feeding Operation) of any size that discharges pollutants (e.g. manure, wastewater) into any ditch, stream, or other water conveyance system, whether man-made or natural. Consider these key points:
-Operations with more than 1000 animal units are not considered CAFOs if the animals are housed or fed on areas where crops are produced during the normal growing season
-A facility of any size can be designated as a CAFO if pollutants are discharged into water passing across, through, or adjacent to the facility.
-Any water that comes into contact with animals or manure must be contained on site.
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Why it matters: CAFOs are huge contributers of waste and pollution. Animals kept in crowded conditions need large doses of antibiotics to keep them disease-free. The antibiotics then end up in food and in water run off. Animals in CAFOs are also given low quality feed and are prevented from grazing. Some argue that this kind of operation leads to unsafe, low quality meat and is cruel to the animals.

What to look for: The best way to avoid supporting CAFOs is to buy from a small supplier. You can also look for meat that is labeled 100% Grass Fed or Grass Finished. CAFOs use corn as the main ingredient in their feed and cannot make these claims. Be wary of labels that state only “Grass Fed” because ALL beef cattle are grass fed at some point in their lives before being sent to a CAFO.