Clean Air Council

Meat Industry

It’s no secret that the meat industry causes serious damage to the environment. Factory farms produce significant air pollution in almost every stage of their operations, starting from the feed needed for the animals. Nitrogen fertilizer used to grow the feed produces nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas that causes nearly 300 times more warming than CO2 and depletes the ozone layer. Manure from the animals also emits ammonia, methane, CO2, and other pollutants. In total, the UN has estimated that the meat industry generates 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Factory farming is prevalent throughout the region. While New Jersey has relatively little in the way of factory farms, southern Delaware is considered the chicken capital of the world (producing over 200,000,000 a year), and Pennsylvania’s 100+ factory farms produce over 15,000,000 animals each year. Despite this, little is being done to regulate the air pollution created by such facilities.

Due to lack of funding, the Clean Air Council is not currently working on this issue. Given its magnitude and proximity, though, it’s one that we would like to work on and believe we are well-suited towards. The agricultural industry’s tactics are very similar to those of other industrial polluters we’ve fought against, particularly the fracking industry. For example, just as fracking has its “Halliburton Loophole” exempting industry from most EPA water regulations, the EPA has similarly exempted animal agriculture operations from having to report on the air pollution they produce. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s permitting process is stacked in favor of industry with few complete applications ever being rejected. This has made local zoning boards the best site for resistance to factory farms, just as the Council’s strategy has been to keep fracking away from schools in the Middlesex case.

We are currently looking for ways to get involved in this issue. If you have an idea (including needing help yourself), please contact our Executive Director, Joe Minott. His email is, and his phone number is 215-567-4004 ext. 116.

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