Industrial agriculture (animals)

Industrial agriculture (animals)

Industrial animal agriculture is a modern form of intensive farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, including cattle, poultry (in "battery farms") and fish. Most of the meat, dairy and eggs available in supermarkets are produced by industrialized agriculture.

Confined industrial animal agriculture of livestock and poultry are commonly referred to as factory farming [ [ Factory farming. Webster's Dictionary definition of Factory farming] ] [ Encyclopaedia Britannica's definition of Factory farm] ] and are criticised by opponents for the low level of animal welfare standards [ The Welfare of Intensively Kept Pigs] ] and associated pollution and health issues. [ [ Commissioner points to factory farming as source of contamination] ] [ Rebuilding Agriculture - EPA of UK] ]

The practice is widespread in developed nations. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry, 43 percent of beef, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way."State of the World 2006," Worldwatch Institute, p. 26.]


The practice of industrial agriculture is a relatively recent development in the history of agriculture, and the result of scientific discoveries and technological advances. Innovations in agriculture beginning in the late 1800s generally parallel developments in mass production in other industries that characterized the latter part of the Industrial Revolution. The identification of nitrogen and phosphorus as critical factors in plant growth led to the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers, making possible more intensive types of agriculture. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition, in the first two decades of the 20th century, led to vitamin supplements, which in the 1920s allowed certain livestock to be raised indoors, reducing their exposure to adverse natural elements. The discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in larger numbers by reducing disease. Chemicals developed for use in World War II gave rise to synthetic pesticides. Developments in shipping networks and technology have made long-distance distribution of agricultural produce feasible.

Factory farming

Industrial raising of farm animals indoors under conditions of extremely restricted mobility is commonly known as "factory farming" [ [ Online source of McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms definition of "Factory farming"] - McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 6th edition, published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.] It is done as part of industrial agriculture which is a set of methods that changes as laws and technology change knowm as industrial agriculture which is designed to produce the highest output at the lowest cost, using economies of scale, modern machinery, modern medicine, and global trade for financing, purchases and sales. ["Is factory farming really cheaper?" in "New Scientist", Institution of Electrical Engineers, New Science Publications, University of Michigan, 1971, p. 12.] ["Factory farming," "Encyclopaedia Britannica concise", 2007.]

Factory farms under United States laws and regulations are called, "Concentrated animal feeding operations" (CAFOs), [ "Concentrated animal feeding operations"] , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Department of Health and Human Services.] , and in Canada they are called "Confined animal feeding operations" (CFOs) or "intensive livestock operations" (ILOs). [ "Managing the Transition Between Municipal and Provincial Governance as Required by the Regulations Under the Nutrient Management Act" Section:"Lessons From Michigan: Strategies For Regulating Intensive Livestock Operations- Right To Farm And The Role Of The State", Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs; Government of Ontario, Canada] ]

Factory farming is widespread in developed nations. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry, 43 percent of beef, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way. In the U.S., four companies produce 81 percent of cows, 73 percent of sheep, 60 percent of pigs, and 50 percent of chickens; [Testimony by Leland Swenson, president of the U.S. National Farmer's Union, before the House Judiciary Committee, September 12, 2000, cited in Scully, Matthew. "Dominion", St. Martin's Griffin, p. 29.] according to its National Pork Producers Council, 80 million of its 95 million pigs slaughtered each year are reared in industrial settings.Scully, Matthew. "Dominion", St. Martin's Griffin, p. 29.] Proponents of industrial agriculture argue for the benefits of increased efficiencies, while opponents argue that it harms the environment, creates health risks,cite news|url=|title=Supplements used in factory farming can spread disease|author=Blaine Harden|publisher=The Washington Post|date=December 28, 2003] cite web|url=|title=The Association of Health Effects with Exposure to Odors from Hog Farm Operations|publisher=North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services|date=December 7, 1998|author=A. Dennis McBride, MD, MPH] and abuses animals. [ "Commissioner points to factory farming as source of contamination"] , CBC, July 28, 2000.]

The designation of CAFOs in the U.S. resulted from that country's 1972 Federal Clean Water Act, which was enacted to protect and restore lakes and rivers to a "fishable, swimmable" quality. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified certain animal feeding operations, along with many other types of industry, as point source polluters of groundwater. These operations were designated as CAFOs and subject to special anti-pollution regulation. [Sweeten, John et al. [ "Fact Sheet #1: A Brief History and Background of the EPA CAFO Rule"] . MidWest Plan Service, Iowa State University, July 2003.]


In the United States, chickens were raised primarily on family farms until roughly 1960. Originally, the primary value in poultry was eggs, and meat was considered a byproduct of egg production.Fact|date=November 2007 Its supply was less than the demand, and poultry was expensive. Except in hot weather, eggs can be shipped and stored without refrigeration for some time before going bad; this was important in the days before widespread refrigeration.

Farm flocks tended to be small because the hens largely fed themselves through foraging, with some supplementation of grain, scraps, and waste products from other farm ventures. Such feedstuffs were in limited supply, especially in the winter, and this tended to regulate the size of the farm flocks. Soon after poultry keeping gained the attention of agricultural researchers (around 1896), improvements in nutrition and management made poultry keeping more profitable and businesslike.

Prior to about 1910, chicken was served primarily on special occasions or Sunday dinner. Poultry was shipped live or killed, plucked, and packed on ice (but not eviscerated). The "whole, ready-to-cook broiler" wasn't popular until the Fifties, when end-to-end refrigeration and sanitary practices gave consumers more confidence. Before this, poultry were often cleaned by the neighborhood butcher, though cleaning poultry at home was a commonplace kitchen skill.

Two kinds of poultry were generally used: broilers or "spring chickens;" young male chickens, a byproduct of the egg industry, which were sold when still young and tender (generally under 3 pounds live weight), and "stewing hens," also a byproduct of the egg industry, which were old hens past their prime for laying. ["The Dollar Hen", Milo Hastings, (1909)]

The major milestone in 20th century poultry production was the discovery of vitamin D, which made it possible to keep chickens in confinement year-round. Before this, chickens did not thrive during the winter (due to lack of sunlight), and egg production, incubation, and meat production in the off-season were all very difficult, making poultry a seasonal and expensive proposition. Year-round production lowered costs, especially for broilers.

At the same time, egg production was increased by scientific breeding. After a few false starts (such as the Maine Experiment Station's failure at improving egg production ["The Dollar Hen", Milo Hastings, (1909)] , success was shown by Professor Dryden at the Oregon Experiment Station [Dryden, James. Poultry Breeding and Management. Orange Judd Press, 1916.] .

Improvements in production and quality were accompanied by lower labor requirements. In the Thirties through the early Fifties, 1,500 hens was considered to be a full-time job for a farm family. In the late Fifties, egg prices had fallen so dramatically that farmers typically tripled the number of hens they kept, putting three hens into what had been a single-bird cage or converting their floor-confinement houses from a single deck of roosts to triple-decker roosts. Not long after this, prices fell still further and large numbers of egg farmers left the business.

Robert Plamondon [ [ the home of Robert Plamondon and all his works! ] ] reports that the last family chicken farm in his part of Oregon, Rex Farms, had 30,000 layers and survived into the Nineties. But the standard laying house of the current operators is around 125,000 hens.

This fall in profitability was accompanied by a general fall in prices to the consumer, allowing poultry and eggs to lose their status as luxury foods.

The vertical integration of the egg and poultry industries was a late development, occurring after all the major technological changes had been in place for years (including the development of modern broiler rearing techniques, the adoption of the Cornish Cross broiler, the use of laying cages, etc.).

By the late Fifties, poultry production had changed dramatically. Large farms and packing plants could grow birds by the tens of thousands. Chickens could be sent to slaughterhouses for butchering and processing into prepackaged commercial products to be frozen or shipped fresh to markets or wholesalers. Meat-type chickens currently grow to market weight in six to seven weeks whereas only fifty years ago it took three times as long. [Havenstein, G.B., P.R. Ferket, and M.A. Qureshi, 2003a. Growth, livability, and feed conversion of 1957 versus 2001 broilers when fed representative 1957 and 2001 broiler diets. Poult. Sci. 82:1500-1508] This is due to genetic selection and nutritional modifications (and not the use of growth hormones, which are illegal for use in poultry in the US and many other countries). Once a meat consumed only occasionally, the common availability and lower cost has made chicken a common meat product within developed nations. Growing concerns over the cholesterol content of red meat in the 1980s and 1990s further resulted in increased consumption of chicken.

Today, eggs are produced on large egg ranches on which environmental parameters are well controlled. Chickens are exposed to artificial light cycles to stimulate egg production year-round. In addition, it is a common practice to induce molting through careful manipulation of light and the amount of food they receive in order to further increase egg size and production.

On average, a chicken lays one egg a day, but not on every day of the year. This varies with the breed and time of year. In 1900, average egg production was 83 eggs per hen per year. In 2000, it was well over 300. In the United States, laying hens are butchered after their second egg laying season. In Europe, they are generally butchered after a single season. The laying period begins when the hen is about 18-20 weeks old (depending on breed and season). Males of the egg-type breeds have little commercial value at any age, and all those not used for breeding (roughly fifty percent of all egg-type chickens) are killed soon after hatching. The old hens also have little commercial value. Thus, the main sources of poultry meat 100 years ago (spring chickens and stewing hens) have both been entirely supplanted by meat-type broiler chickens.

Some believe "The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices." [ [ Grain international, non-profit foundation] [ BBC news] [ CNN] ] Others have a more nuanced position. According to the CDC article "H5N1 Outbreaks and Enzootic Influenza" by Robert G. Webster et al.:"Transmission of highly pathogenic H5N1 from domestic poultry back to migratory waterfowl in western China has increased the geographic spread. The spread of H5N1 and its likely reintroduction to domestic poultry increase the need for good agricultural vaccines. In fact, the root cause of the continuing H5N1 pandemic threat may be the way the pathogenicity of H5N1 viruses is masked by cocirculating influenza viruses or bad agricultural vaccines." [ [ CDC] "H5N1 Outbreaks and Enzootic Influenza" by Robert G. Webster et al.] Dr. Robert Webster explains: "If you use a good vaccine you can prevent the transmission within poultry and to humans. But if they have been using vaccines now [in China] for several years, why is there so much bird flu? There is bad vaccine that stops the disease in the bird but the bird goes on pooping out virus and maintaining it and changing it. And I think this is what is going on in China. It has to be. Either there is not enough vaccine being used or there is substandard vaccine being used. Probably both. It’s not just China. We can’t blame China for substandard vaccines. I think there are substandard vaccines for influenza in poultry all over the world." [ [ MSNBC quoting Reuters quoting Robert G. Webster] ] In response to the same concerns, Reuters reports Hong Kong infectious disease expert Lo Wing-lok saying, "The issue of vaccines has to take top priority," and Julie Hall, in charge of the WHO's outbreak response in China, saying China's vaccinations might be masking the virus." [ [ Reuters] ] The BBC reported that Dr Wendy Barclay, a virologist at the University of Reading, UK said: "The Chinese have made a vaccine based on reverse genetics made with H5N1 antigens, and they have been using it. There has been a lot of criticism of what they have done, because they have protected their chickens against death from this virus but the chickens still get infected; and then you get drift - the virus mutates in response to the antibodies - and now we have a situation where we have five or six 'flavours' of H5N1 out there." [ [ BBC] "Bird flu vaccine no silver bullet" 22 February 2006] Keeping wild birds away from domestic birds is known to be key in the fight against H5N1. Caging (no free range poultry) is one way. Providing wild birds with restored wetlands so they naturally choose nonlivestock areas is another way that helps accomplish this. Political forces are increasingly demanding the selection of one, the other, or both based on nonscientific reasons. [ [ Breitbart News] article "Key West Chickens Raise Bird Flu Fears" published April 13, 2006. [ Todau on line] article "Restoring wetlands key to curbing bird flu: UN" published April 13, 2006.]


Intensive piggeries (or hog lots) are a type of concentrated animal feeding operation specialized for the raising of domestic pigs up to slaughterweight. In this system of pig production grower pigs are housed indoors in group-housing or straw-lined sheds, whilst pregnant sows are confined in sow stalls (gestation crates) and give birth in farrowing crates.

The use of sow stalls (gestation crates) has resulted in lower production costs, however, this practice has led to more significant animal welfare concerns. Many of the world’s largest producers of pigs (U.S., Canada, Denmark) use sow stalls, but some nations (e.g. the UK) and some US States (e.g. Florida and Arizona) have banned them.

Intensive piggeries are generally large warehouse-like buildings. Indoor pig systems allow the pig’s condition to be monitored, ensuring minimum fatalities and increased productivity. Buildings are ventilated and their temperature regulated. Most domestic pig varieties are susceptible to heat stress, and all pigs lack sweat glands and cannot cool themselves. Pigs have a limited tolerance to high temperatures and heat stress can lead to death. Maintaining a more specific temperature within the pig-tolerance range also maximizes growth and growth to feed ratio. In an intensive operation pigs will lack access to a wallow (mud), which is their natural cooling mechanism. Intensive piggeries control temperature through ventilation or drip water systems (dropping water to cool the system).

Pigs are naturally omnivorous and are generally fed a combination of grains and protein sources (soybeans, or meat and bone meal). Larger intensive pig farms may be surrounded by farmland where feed-grain crops are grown. Alternatively, piggeries are reliant on the grains industry. Pig feed may be bought packaged or mixed on-site. The intensive piggery system, where pigs are confined in individual stalls, allows each pig to be allotted a portion of feed. The individual feeding system also facilitates individual medication of pigs through feed. This has more significance to intensive farming methods, as the close proximity to other animals enables diseases to spread more rapidly. To prevent disease spreading and encourage growth, drug programs such as antibiotics, vitamins, hormones and other supplements are preemptively administered.

Indoor systems, especially stalls and pens (i.e. ‘dry,’ not straw-lined systems) allow for the easy collection of waste. In an indoor intensive pig farm, manure can be managed through a lagoon system or other waste-management system. However, odor remains a problem which is difficult to manage.

The way animals are housed in intensive systems varies. Breeding sows will spend the bulk of their time in sow stalls (also called gestation crates) during pregnancy or farrowing crates, with litter, until market.

Piglets often receive range of treatments including castration, tail docking to reduce tail biting, teeth clipped (to reduce injuring their mother's nipples and prevent later tusk growth) and their ears notched to assist identification. Treatments are usually made without pain killers. Weak runts may be slain shortly after birth.

Piglets also may be weaned and removed from the sows at between two and five weeks old [] and placed in sheds. However, grower pigs - which comprise the bulk of the herd - are usually housed in alternative indoor housing, such as batch pens. During pregnancy, the use of a stall may be preferred as it facilitates feed-management and growth control. It also prevents pig aggression (e.g. tail biting, ear biting, vulva biting, food stealing). Group pens generally require higher stockmanship skills. Such pens will usually not contain straw or other material. Alternatively, a straw-lined shed may house a larger group (i.e. not batched) in age groups.

Many countries have introduced laws to regulate treatment of farmed animals. In the USA, the federal Humane Slaughter Act [] requires pigs to be stunned before slaughter, although compliance and enforcement is questionedFact|date=June 2007. [] .


Cattle, colloquially referred to as cows, are domesticated ungulates, a member of the subfamily Bovinae of the family Bovidae. They are raised as livestock for meat (called beef and veal), dairy products (milk), leather and as draught animals (pulling carts, plows and the like). In some countries, such as India, they are honored in religious ceremonies and revered. It is estimated that there are 1.4 billion head of cattle in the world today. [ [ Breeds of Cattle at CATTLE TODAY ] ]

Cattle are often raised by allowing herds to graze on the grasses of large tracts of rangeland called ranches. Raising cattle in this manner allows the productive use of land that might be unsuitable for growing crops. The most common interactions with cattle involve daily feeding, cleaning and milking. Many routine husbandry practices involve ear tagging, dehorning, loading, medical operations, vaccinations and hoof care, as well as training for agricultural shows and preparations. There are also some cultural differences in working with cattle- the cattle husbandry of Fulani men rests on behavioural techniques, whereas in Europe cattle are controlled primarily by physical means like fences. [cite journal | last = Lott | first = Dale F. | coauthors = Hart, Benjamin L. | title = Applied ethology in a nomadic cattle culture | journal = Applied Animal Ethology | volume = 5 | issue = 4 | pages = 309–319 | publisher = Elsevier B.V. | date= October 1979 | doi = 10.1016/0304-3762(79)90102-0 | accessdate = 2006-11-07 ]

Breeders can utilise cattle husbandry to reduce M. bovis infection susceptibility by selective breeding and maintaining herd health to avoid concurrent disease. [cite paper | author = Krebs JR, Anderson T, Clutton-Brock WT, "et al." | title = Bovine tuberculosis in cattle and badgers: an independent scientific review | publisher = Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food | date= 1997 | url = | format = PDF | accessdate = 2006-09-04 ] Cattle are farmed for beef, veal, dairy, leather and they are sometimes used simply to maintain grassland for wildlife- for example, in Epping Forest, England. They are often used in some of the most wild places for livestock. Depending on the breed, cattle can survive on hill grazing, heaths, marshes, moors and semi desert. Modern cows are more commercial than older breeds and having become more specialised are less versatile. For this reason many smaller farmers still favour old breeds, like the dairy breed of cattle Jersey.


F.J. "Sonny" Faison, the CEO of Carrolls Foods in North Carolina, the second-largest hog producer in the U.S. (recently purchased by Smithfield Foods) has said: "It's all a supply-and-demand price question ... The meat business in this country is just about perfect, uncontrolled supply-and-demand free enterprise. And it continues to get more and more sophisticated, based on science. Only the least-cost producer survives in agriculture."Scully, Matthew. "Dominion", St. Martin's Griffin, 2002, pp. 255-256.] At one of Carrolls's farms, Farm 2105, twenty pigs are kept per pen and each confinement building or "hog parlor" holds 25 pens.Scully, Matthew. "Dominion", St. Martin's Griffin, pp. 259.] As of 2002, the company slaughters eighty thousand pigs a day.Scully, Matthew. "Dominion", St. Martin's Griffin, 2002, p. 258.]

Carrolls' Farms switched to the total confinement of animals in 1974. The animals are better off, according to Faison: "They're in state-of-the-art confinement facilities. The conditions that we keep these animals in are much more humane than when they were out in the field. Today they're in housing that is environmentally controlled in many respects. And the feed is right there for them all the time, and water, fresh water. They're looked after in some of the best conditions, because the healthier and [more] content that animal, the better it grows. So we're very interested in their well-being — up to an extent."


Aquaculture is the cultivation of the natural produce of water (fish, shellfish, algae and other aquatic organisms). The term is distinguished from fishing by the idea of active human effort in maintaining or increasing the number of organisms involved, as opposed to simply taking them from the wild. Subsets of aquaculture include Mariculture (aquaculture in the ocean); Algaculture (the production of kelp/seaweed and other algae); Fish farming (the raising of catfish, tilapia and milkfish in freshwater and brackish ponds or salmon in marine ponds); and the growing of cultured pearls. Extensive aquaculture is based on local photosynthetical production while intensive aquaculture is based on fish fed with an external food supply.

Aquaculture has been used since ancient times and can be found in many cultures. Aquaculture was used in China circa 2500 BC. When the waters lowered after river floods, some fishes, namely carp, were held in artificial lakes. Their brood were later fed using nymphs and silkworm feces, while the fish themselves were eaten as a source of protein. The Hawaiian people practiced aquaculture by constructing fish ponds (see Hawaiian aquaculture). A remarkable example from ancient Hawaii is the construction of a fish pond, dating from at least 1,000 years ago, at Alekoko. According to legend, it was constructed by the mythical Menehune. The Japanese practiced cultivation of seaweed by providing bamboo poles and, later, nets and oyster shells to serve as anchoring surfaces for spores. The Romans often bred fish in ponds.

The practice of aquaculture gained prevalence in Europe during the Middle Ages, since fish were scarce and thus expensive. However, improvements in transportation during the 19th century made fish easily available and inexpensive, even in inland areas, causing a decline in the practice. The first North American fish hatchery was constructed on Dildo Island, Newfoundland Canada in 1889, it was the largest and most advanced in the world.

Americans were rarely involved in aquaculture until the late 20th century, but California residents harvested wild kelp and made legal efforts to manage the supply starting circa 1900, later even producing it as a wartime resource. (Peter Neushul, Seaweed for War: California's World War I kelp industry, Technology and Culture 30 (July 1989), 561-583)

In contrast to agriculture, the rise of aquaculture is a contemporary phenomenon. According to professor Carlos M. Duarte About 430 (97%) of the aquatic species presently in culture have been domesticated since the start of the 20th century, and an estimated 106 aquatic species have been domesticated over the past decade. The domestication of an aquatic species typically involves about a decade of scientific research. Current success in the domestication of aquatic species results from the 20thcentury rise of knowledge on the basic biology of aquatic species and the lessons learned from past success and failure. The stagnation in the world's fisheries and overexploitation of 20 to 30% of marine fish species have provided additional impetus to domesticate marine species, just as overexploitation of land animals provided the impetus for the early domestication of land species

In the 1960s, the price of fish began to climb, as wild fish capture rates peaked and the human population continued to rise. Today, commercial aquaculture exists on an unprecedented, huge scale. In the 1980s, open-netcage salmon farming also expanded; this particular type of aquaculture technology remains a minor part of the production of farmed finfish worldwide, but possible negative impacts on wild stocks, which have come into question since the late 1990s, have caused it to become a major cause of controversy. []

In 2003, the total world production of fisheries product was 132.2 million tonnes of which aquaculture contributed 41.9 million tonnes or about 31% of the total world production. The growth rate of worldwide aquaculture is very rapid (> 10% per year for most species) while the contribution to the total from wild fisheries has been essentially flat for the last decade.

In the US, approximately 90% of all shrimp consumed is farmed and imported. [] In recent years salmon aquaculture has become a major export in southern Chile, especially in Puerto Montt and Quellón, Chile's fastest-growing city.

Farmed fish are kept in concentrations never seen in the wild (e.g. 50,000 fish in a two-acre area. [ [ "Fuss Over Farming Fish", Alaska Science Forum, June 27, 1990] ] ) with each fish occupying less room than the average bathtub. This can cause several forms of pollution. Packed tightly, fish rub against each other and the sides of their cages, damaging their fins and tails and becoming sickened with various diseases and infections. [ This also causes stress. [ "Facts about Fish and Fish Farming", Advocates for Animals.] ]

Some species of sea lice have been noted to target farmed coho and farmed Atlantic salmon specifically. [ [ University of Maine, Department of Animal, Veterinary and Aquaculture Sciences, "Sea Lice Information".] ] Such parasites may have an effect on nearby wild fish. For these reasons, aquaculture operators frequently need to use strong drugs to keep the fish alive (but many fish still die prematurely at rates of up to 30% [ [Lymbery, P. CIWF Trust report, "In Too Deep - The Welfare of Intensively Farmed Fish" (2002)] ] ) and these drugs inevitably enter the environment.

The lice and pathogen problems of the 1990s facilitated the development of current treatment methods for sea lice and pathogens. These developments reduced the stress from parasite/pathogen problems. However, being in an ocean environment, the transfer of disease organisms from the wild fish to the aquaculture fish is an ever-present risk factor. [ [BULLETIN OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF FISH PATHOLOGISTS 22 (2): 117-125 2002] ] .

The very large number of fish kept long-term in a single location produces a significant amount of condensed feces, often contaminated with drugs, which again affect local waterways. However, these effects are very local to the actual fish farm site and are minimal to non-measurable in high current sites.

Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) is a practice in which the by-products (wastes) from one species are recycled to become inputs (fertilizers, food) for another. Fed aquaculture (e.g. fish, shrimp) is combined with inorganic extractive (e.g. seaweed) and organic extractive (e.g. shellfish) aquaculture to create balanced systems for environmental sustainability (biomitigation), economic stability (product diversification and risk reduction) and social acceptability (better management practices). Chopin T, Buschmann AH, Halling C, Troell M, Kautsky N, Neori A, Kraemer GP, Zertuche-Gonzalez JA, Yarish C and Neefus C. 2001. Integrating seaweeds into marine aquaculture systems: a key toward sustainability. Journal of Phycology 37: 975-986.]

"Multi-Trophic" refers to the incorporation of species from different trophic or nutritional levels in the same system. Chopin T. 2006. Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture. What it is, and why you should care… and don’t confuse it with polyculture. Northern Aquaculture, Vol. 12, No. 4, July/August 2006, pg. 4.] This is one potential distinction from the age-old practice of aquatic polyculture, which could simply be the co-culture of different fish species from the same trophic level. In this case, these organisms may all share the same biological and chemical processes, with few synergistic benefits, which could potentially lead to significant shifts in the ecosystem. Some traditional polyculture systems may, in fact, incorporate a greater diversity of species, occupying several niches, as extensive cultures (low intensity, low management) within the same pond. The "Integrated" in IMTA refers to the more intensive cultivation of the different species in proximity of each other, connected by nutrient and energy transfer through water, but not necessarily right at the same location.

Ideally, the biological and chemical processes in an IMTA system should balance. This is achieved through the appropriate selection and proportions of different species providing different ecosystem functions. The co-cultured species should be more than just biofilters; they should also be harvestable crops of commercial value. A working IMTA system should result in greater production for the overall system, based on mutual benefits to the co-cultured species and improved ecosystem health, even if the individual production of some of the species is lower compared to what could be reached in monoculture practices over a short term period. Neori A, Chopin T, Troell M, Buschmann AH, Kraemer GP, Halling C, Shpigel M and Yarish C. 2004. Integrated aquaculture: rationale, evolution and state of the art emphasizing seaweed biofiltration in modern mariculture. Aquaculture 231: 361-391.]

Sometimes the more general term "Integrated Aquaculture" is used to describe the integration of monocultures through water transfer between organisms. For all intents and purposes however, the terms "IMTA" and "integrated aquaculture" differ primarily in their degree of descriptiveness. These terms are sometimes interchanged. Aquaponics, fractionated aquaculture, IAAS (integrated agriculture-aquaculture systems), IPUAS (integrated peri-urban-aquaculture systems), and IFAS (integrated fisheries-aquaculture systems) may also be considered variations of the IMTA concept.


A shrimp farm is an aquaculture business for the cultivation of marine shrimp or prawnsfn|1 for human consumption. Commercial shrimp farming began in the 1970s, and production grew steeply, particularly to match the market demands of the USA, Japan and Western Europe. The total global production of farmed shrimp reached more than 1.6 million tonnes in 2003, representing a value of nearly 9,000 million U.S. dollars. About 75% of farmed shrimp is produced in Asia, in particular in China and Thailand. The other 25% is produced mainly in Latin America, where Brazil is the largest producer. The largest exporting nation is Thailand.

Shrimp farming has changed from traditional, small-scale businesses in Southeast Asia into a global industry. Technological advances have led to growing shrimp at ever higher densities, and broodstock is shipped world-wide. Virtually all farmed shrimp are penaeids (i.e., shrimp of the family "Penaeidae"), and just two species of shrimp—the "Penaeus vannamei" (Pacific white shrimp) and the "Penaeus monodon" (giant tiger prawn)—account for roughly 80% of all farmed shrimp. These industrial monocultures are very susceptible to diseases, which have caused several regional wipe-outs of farm shrimp populations. Increasing ecological problems, repeated disease outbreaks, and pressure and criticism from both NGOs and consumer countries led to changes in the industry in the late 1990s and generally stronger regulation by governments. In 1999, a program aimed at developing and promoting more sustainable farming practices was initiated, including governmental bodies, industry representatives, and environmental organizations.

See also

*Animal welfare
*Bernard Matthews
*Concentrated animal feeding operation
*ConAgra Foods
*Environmental vegetarianism
*Extensive farming
*Factory farming
*Intensive farming
*Intensive pig farming
*List of United States foodborne illness outbreaks
*Maple Leaf Foods
*Organic farming
*Smithfield Foods
*Sustainable agriculture
*System of Rice Intensification
*Tyson Foods

ources and notes

Further reading

;Government regulation
* [ Brief History of CAFO Regulations] - from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

;Commissions assessing industrial agriculture
* [ National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production] , Independent commission studying the effects of intensive animal production

;Proponent, neutral, and industry-related
* [ Journal of Extension] , article on case studies of the impact of large scale agriculture
* [ US Farm Bureau] , Farm and Ranchers association
* [ Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers]
* [ Dairy Today magazine]
* [ USDA food safety]
* [ Purdue University food science extension]

;Criticism of factory farming
* [ Anti-agricultural FAQs on Factory Farming]
* [ Fatal Harvest - The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture]
* [ Ask For Change] resources for consumers
* [ A critique of factory farming]
* []
* [ Cruelty to Animals: Mechanized Madness] - Article with links to photos and videos of factory farming
* [ foie gras production] - Video of Foie Gras production
* [ Husbandry Institute] Promoting sustainable, responsible, and ethical animal husbandry
* [ Information about factory farming] from The Humane Society of the United States
* [ Inside the California Egg Industry: An Undercover Investigation] - Video of hens in battery cages at various intensive egg farming facilities. (2/4/06)
* [ The Meatrix] - a parody of "The Matrix"
* [ The Meatrix 2: Revolting] - the second installment of the Meatrix parodying "The Matrix"
* [ Meet Your Meat] - a PETA-produced factory farm tour narrated by Alec Baldwin
* [ Factory Farms Blamed for Spread of Bird Flu]
* [ See inside an egg factory farm]
* [ See inside a chicken factory farm]
* [ One of PA's largest egg farms charged with animal cruelty]
* [] - Undercover investigation of a Tyson Foods processing plant

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