What is a CAFO?

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

A CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is a large-scale, intensive livestock farm. According to the FDA, a CAFO is any animal feeding operation that houses 1,000 animal units (roughly 700 dairy cows, 1,000 meat cows, or 2,500 pigs) for more than 45 days in a single year. The animals raised at CAFOS are used to produce meat, eggs, or milk.

Why are CAFOs in the news?

While CAFOS allow large-scale farming operations to efficiently produce large quantities of meat, eggs, and milk, that efficiency comes at a cost. The animals raised at CAFOs are often raised in confinement, and CAFOs produce a very, very large amount of animal waste.

If that animal waste finds its way into nearby residents' drinking water (it often does), it can result in diarrhea, gastrointestinal illnesses, and skin infections. The large quantities of waste that CAFOs produce have also been linked to decreases in local air quality and increases in greenhouse gas emissions. (The EPA regulates CAFOs; many environmentalists argue the EPA's regulations are not strict enough or enforced correctly.)

Additionally, many small-scale farmers in the United States cannot compete with CAFOs. Some of these farmers end up selling their farms to CAFO operators, further cementing CAFOs' dominance of American animal agriculture.


To get to my new job, I have to drive by a CAFO every day. I'm thinking of quitting just to avoid the smell
Users discussing CAFOs on Twitter
Users discussing CAFOs on Twitter

Related Slang


Updated August 17, 2021

CAFO definition by

This page explains what the acronym "CAFO" means. The definition, example, and related terms listed above have been written and compiled by the team.

We are constantly updating our database with new slang terms, acronyms, and abbreviations. If you would like to suggest a term or an update to an existing one, please let us know!