Investigate Midwest: Information on factory farms is spotty at best. The government has been hogtied from doing more. There is no comprehensive list of all the concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in the Midwest. A lawsuit prevented the federal government from making one, and states take different approaches.
Iowa is the country’s top pork producer, with around 24 million hogs at any given time, according to industry data. Most of that production comes from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, large scale livestock operations that raise thousands of animals in enclosed barns.
CAFOs have been a point of contention between the livestock industry and environmental activists since they began to proliferate in the 1990s, overtaking small, pasture-feeding operations as the dominant form of animal agriculture in the US. As the number of livestock producers has declined, the number of animals — hogs, cattle and poultry — has skyrocketed over the past several decades, in part due to rapid consolidation in the industry.