Tens of thousands of cows or pigs and millions of chickens can be squeezed onto a single factory farm, producing as much waste as a small city. The waste is often stored in open pits, benignly known as "lagoons." Even without a leak, rainfall can wash this waste into nearby waterways. The nitrogen and phosphorus in the animal waste can then create an explosion of algae, robbing water of oxygen and killing off aquatic life.
NRDC exposes the hidden dangers of pollution from factory farms to the public. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been kept in the dark about how many of these facilities work, because they weren't required to—or have failed to—provide the agency with information about their operations. NRDC has long fought in the courtroom as well as in the halls of federal agencies and Congress to force the federal government to collect basic operating information about—and do more to address pollution from—these facilities.
While pushing the EPA to collect more data on factory farms, we’re also empowering consumers to demand beef that is produced without harming the environment. NRDC is working with buyers and producers to develop standards for better beef, which include considerations for how water and grazing land are managed. Healthy soils and native grasses on well-managed grazing lands can filter and absorb water, preventing pollution from running into rivers and streams when it rains. Creating strong, verifiable, and recognized standards can encourage farmers to adopt practices that reduce pollution and help buyers confidently purchase beef that's better for their health and the environment.