Does Your Drinking Water Have Chicken Manure in It?

NOTE: This is a guest post from Karen Steuer, director of the Reforming Industrial Animal Agriculture campaign at the Pew Environment Group.

From the backyard grill to the picnic basket, Americans seem to have a love affair with meat and poultry. To supply that demand, livestock production has turned to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) as the new business model, growing high volumes of cows, pigs and poultry within short time spans and in the smallest spaces possible.

These “factory farms” are designed to be efficient at producing meat, but they also generate enormous amounts of manure. Livestock animals create 13 to 25 times more of it than humans, on a per-weight basis, resulting in quantities from a single large CAFO that can surpass the sanitary waste production of a city as large as Philadelphia. Treatment is not required for animal manure as it is for human sewage, so where does all of that waste go?

A growing body of evidence indicates that CAFO-generated contaminants are ending up in the waters that we depend on for commerce, recreation, and perhaps most importantly drinking. Spills that occur during manure transport or when storage facilities fail can lead to easily discernible, significant impacts on water quality, as I explained in my previous blog entry.

More insidious, though, are the negative impacts resulting from the over-application of animal solid waste to crops. Spreading livestock manure in quantities greater than the plants can use or the soil can absorb can cause severe water quality problems and thereby harm human health. Although waste generated by the animal farm operator can be a valuable commodity when applied on land to help crops grow, the sheer scale of CAFOs distorts such usage.

Since CAFOs are often clustered within small areas and many farmers purchase livestock feed instead of growing it on adjacent land, the area available for manure disposal is rapidly vanishing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture brought this trend to light in 2000 when it found that the potential for water pollution from manure runoff was higher in those regions with the largest concentration of animals in confinement. More recent studies also point to CAFO density as a chief indicator of localized runoff and higher contaminant concentrations in water.

States must document the waters that have become degraded in order to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. These lists of impaired lakes, rivers and streams illustrate that the manure generated from CAFOs is a significant contributor to decreased water quality in the nation’s watersheds — whether the source is production and waste management sites or manure-treated cropland. Unfortunately, that inventory does not fully capture the likely impacts of discharges from CAFOs because only 27.5 percent of rivers and streams and 45.5 percent of lakes nationally have been assessed.

We must recognize that CAFOs are among the substantial producers of pollutants to the waters we depend on.

Take Action to Help Protect America’s Waterways


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Johne B.
Past Member about a year ago

I don’t waste my free time that’s why I read the informative things when I got this blog I really enjoyed reading this.

Kate Bates
Kathleen B.4 years ago

Factory farms are so wrong on many levels. Raising animals as if they are 'products,' seems to be as egregious as human slavery. "Harvesting" chickens has been exposed the excess of abuse and inhumane treatment.

I loved to eat chicken in the past, but now the chickens are so fattened up and filled with antibiotics, that they are tasteless as hot house tomatoes, and also as scary as eating genetically modified crops or mercury polluted fish.

Dale Overall

Ran out of space for part of my comment in the second comment seen below:

He then sat on his White Throne Of Judgement pontificating that I would be dying from cancer or some dis-ease as my karma "for eating - contributing to the suffering, and SLAUGHTER of TRILLIONS of innocent animals every year!"

Dale Overall

While vegans painstakingly research products to avoid using animal products it's very difficult to avoid using them in daily life as some 45 percent of the animal is used in non-food products. Buying cat/dog food? "Animal byproducts" is often the first ingredient listed which isn't even meat but anything left after meat is taken off the bone, feathers, beaks, chicken feet, hooves...
If one uses a computer then there is stearic acid but one can avoid this by using an Apple computer. Pianos, drums, car tires, a/c, paint, credit cards refrigerators, ceramic tiles (egg whites, paper money, malaria, insulin and other medications the list is endless.
A vegan living in a populous city has an easier time finding alternatives while one in a small village may require more work. One's home used to be an animal's habitat, if one works in a high rise with glass windows thousands of birds die each year slamming into windows. Modern life isn't compatible with veganism so it's a constant struggle as many can't take up residence in pristine areas unaffected by modern life and if vegans did so in numbers it would negatively impact animal lives.

Dale Overall

Marilyn N mentioned that Doris A is judgemental and I assume Marilyn was referring to her statement to Steve R that "the meat you love harbors the revenge of the animals who lived a life of hell from birth to death." Judgemental in that revenge is Karma for eating animal flesh because factory farm animals lived their lives and died suffering in poor conditions. Organic farming on the other hand allows for free range living, species specific diets without grass/corn or the animal being given antibiotics and growth hormones.
While I have nothing against vegans or vegetarians, the only time I comment on them is when they are scathing in their judgements of omnivores for eating meat. Not everyone eats factory farm meat nor does every omnivore live in the U.S. Many condemn us for eating even organic meat and expect the rest of us to take up their lifestyle which isn't going to happen. If we don't accept their lifestyle we are insulted, scorned and ridiculed. Many of us simply defend ourselves when they insult us.
For instance there is a lighthearted article in Care2 called "Peanuts & Coke Plus Other Odd Food Combinations" and some of the more extreme vegans dove in. One insulted Jennifer E for eating cheese sneering that wasn't she "just special in an Olympic kind of way" as her husband is from Yorkshire asking if he liked steak and pancreas pie, calling us all addicted drones with "demented tastes." He then sat on his White Throne Of Judgement pontificating that I woul

Dale Overall

He obviously is frustrated, bitter poor soul using caps often, being polite and trying to reason with people is a trait that he obviously lacks. He won't be converting people to veganism/vegetarianism any time soon by calling us "f---g morons and dipsticks" for wasting his time commenting on foods that he disapproves of. Perhaps he got ergot poisoning while eating grains making him ill tempered, causing him to rant endless. Some vegans/vegetarians refuse to accept that others eat meat and scream insults if we don't follow their lifestyle. All Jennifer E did way back on July 17 was mention that she liked cheese, fruit cake, nuts and apples. Big crime.
While he was an ill mannered extremist some vegans often go to articles about meat and make it their business to insult anyone eating meat while many end with their mantra: "Go Vegan! Go Veg!" I don't go to vegan articles and say: "Eat Steak!" Often we omnivores are accused of being anti-vegan if we reply to the vehement insults.

Dale Overall

Doris M, Karma Queen tells Steve R that the: "meat you love harbors the revenge of the animals who lived a life of hell from birth to death." - he being as carnivore thinks he has "one upped" The Vegan Society with his comments, telling him to wipe the smirk off his face.

How does Doris know that he doesn't get his meat from organic sources where the animals/birds are free range, eat a natural diet instead of the GMO laden factory farm diet of factory farms? These are easy to find if one is an omnivore the same way a vegan finds organic soy instead of the Monsanto Resistance Is Futile, Assimilate Now! GMO soy that lurks in the grocery store awaiting pick up by the unsuspecting public. In many countries a sad state of affairs exists as GMOs are not even labelled.

A scary story telling time awaits children at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT when veggies are shaped like Mickey Mouse's head and youngsters are told about the 'wonders' of GMO foods that Disney has been touting since 1996. Disney hasn't told children about the Monsanto Monster that is ravaging and cross pollinating in fields of crops with unnatural mutated genetic material that is a threat to health. Hide the kittens and your heirloom/heritage seeds because Monsanto is out to dominate the world's veggie/fruit crops if they can get away with it.

Doris Muller
Doris Muller4 years ago


@MarilynNOFWDS T.

P. S. I am a supporter of Jeffery Smith and his mission to educate the public about the dire consequences of the Monsanto Corp. I am one of the" Millions against Monsanto." And in case you didn't know, there are Non-GMO certified soy products.

diana malko
diana malko4 years ago

They should let the indivisibles do there own farming and stop the ones cruelity,abuse etc.

diana malko
diana malko4 years ago

They should let the indivisibles do there own farming and stop the ones cruelity,abuse etc.