Have you heard of CAFO? It stands for Confined-Animal-Feeding-Operation.

Some years ago, our farm neighbor gave us a call. His sow had farrowed  and she didn’t have enough teats to feed all her brood. Would we like the runt? Our then twelve year old daughter went wild with excitement. Of course she wanted the piglet. So on a moment’s notice, we went into the agribusiness even though we knew nothing about raising pigs.

Lynn named the baby Trefa, a take off on the Yiddish word tref which means unclean. At the time we thought it was pretty funny. We kept the pig on the screened-in porch and nursed her from a bottle every four hours. It was during the school year, and no one was home during the day to feed Trefa, so Lynn took her to school and left her in the nurse’s office. Each student nurse assistant got to give the piglet a bottle. In the next few weeks everything about her grew very fast. The school principal, who up until then had been very indulgent, call and said Trefa couldn’t come to school anymore.

After a few days at home, we totally understood why. Trefa’s back porch stank. Everything within twenty yards of her stank. Suddenly, we no longer thought her name was so funny.

In the past few years, worldwide demand for pork has risen almost 50%. Understandably, Kansas with its vast amount of land mass used for agriculture, would like to be part of the solution. The question is: can agribusinesses raise huge numbers of animals in a humane way while protecting the environment and the workers who care for them?

And why has Governor Brownback already opposed an Environmental Protection Agency law that would require Confined-Animal-Feeding-Operations (CAFOs) to report directly to the EPA?

Seaboard Farms, located in Johnson County, Kansas has recently obtained approval to build a Confined-Animal-Feeding-Operation (CAFO) that will house 264,000 hogs in Greeley County, Kansas located just east of Colorado and north of Oklahoma. It will be the second largest such operation in the country.

As to Treifa, we took her back to the country and returned her to our farmer friend. But if one little pig can produce so much odor (and that which causes the odor), imagine what 264,000 Trefa’s will do. I’m just saying . . .






7 Responses to CAFO

  • Bob says:

    Wow! That’s like taking half of the city of Kansas City, Missouri (you get to decide which half) and confining them to cages where they lead their daily lives in all their filth and muck. I doubt that water treatment facitilies exist in pig farming operations that large. In an ironic way, CAFO resemble the modern American life we lead. No wonder the pigs get sick and require huge amounts of anti-biotics to survive long enough to be slaughtered.

  • Bob says:

    Do you know what happened to Trefa?

    This looks like another example of how a corporation takes over a business to raise hundreds of thousands of products to answer growing demands worldwide, demands a family-farm probably couldn’t handle.

    How many family farms would it take to raise a quarter million pigs for slaughter? Then there’s transportation to market, slaughter facilities, and distribution of the product. The corporation handles all that on-site.

    One of the troublesome features of a corporate society like the one in which we find ourselves is how much of what is produced has fallen into the hands of a few people.

    Look at books for example, small bookstores existed throughout a city, then along came the giant bookstores like B&N and Borders (to name only two) and they put the independent bookstores out of business (though it was the consumers who really killed the independents) and now the giant bookstores are sinking because of the corporate giant of all things for sale,

    As biological diversity is good for the world so it corporate/business diversity. maybe we should eat more pork before the CAFO (if you’ll excuse the pun) belly up.

  • Beth says:

    You make excellent points. Massive amounts of antibodies are required to keep the animals disease free. Family farms find it difficult to compete. Surrounding property values are lowered. Feed and water are hugely expensive. And I didn’t mention the massive lagoons necessary to store liquid manure. If I lived in Oklahoma, I’d sure hope the one in Greeley County doesn’t leak.

    I am so sad about the demise of bookstores, but that’s why indy writers must join and support each other. Check out the new Write Brain Trust on Facebook and Twitter, or go to

    As to the fate of Trefa, we never saw her again but spoke of her often and chose to believe she lived a long and happy life.

  • Glenn Haynes says:

    Our environment would be better off if we all became vegans – easier on the ozone layer with all the “gas” being produced by our food animal farms…

  • Lynn Barnett says:

    Even if 50% of this country were to go vegan Glenn, the rest of the country loves their bacon and would refuse to give up their pork, beef, and chicken. I have to admit, raising a runt pig was fun for about 2 weeks but, in the long run, it would have required a lot more space and much more time “chorin” to muck out the yard. The baby squirrell was much easier to take care of, even at school.

  • Jo Windmann says:

    Beth, I found this blog post interesting but the comments a little disturbing because of some misconceptions. I’d like to mention that my family and I are Missouri pork producers. We are partners with my husband’s family and together we own a family farm which both row farms and raises 26,000 pigs a year. Many of the CAFO operations are actually family farms—at least they are in our area. The way it works is the land, building, and operation belongs to the farmer(s) and a company basically contracts them to raise company owned pigs. By doing it this way it greatly reduces the cost of transportation and feed, which keeps us in business and keeps the cost of food low. We don’t give them “huge amounts of antibiotics” either. We medicate them if they get sick and the majority of the medicine that they receive is actually immunizations, similar to the ones that our children receive. Additionally, there is a strict cut off time for administering any form of medication so that when the pigs are shipped out there is no medicine (including antibiotics) in their system. The last thing I’d like to mention is that smelly stuff that the pigs produce. It is actually an invaluable byproduct. We, like most CAFOs, collect the waste from the pigs in a deep pit system and then utilize it in our fields as fertilizer in place of petroleum-based chemical fertilizer and it works great at a fraction of the cost. In fact, Canadian research has found that swine manure actually helps to rebuild topsoil.
    I encourage anyone interested in learning more about CAFOs and the pork industry to visit my blog ( or I also have several other sites on my blog for more information.

    • Beth says:

      Jo, Thank you for pointing out any misconceptions my blog may have suggested. I am proud of families like yours
      that work responsibly to provide pork and other food products to the world, though I have read that CAFO operations
      are controversial even in your part of the country. However, it is good to know your operation uses antibiotics with an eye
      toward the health of the consumer and that carefully controlled collection of byproducts such as hog fertilizer
      replaces environmentally damaging chemical and oil based substances overused pervasively by mega agribusinesses.
      Keep up the good work. I look forward to adding your blog to my list of sites to watch.

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