Defining a CAFO:
An operation must have a certain number of animals or animal units to be considered a CAFO, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
An animal unit is a method of measurement equal to 1,000 pounds of live animal weight.
For instance, based on this measurement, a facility may have many more chickens than cattle, but similar animal units.
Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Ionia County ranked as largest in the Michigan, with 59,929 animal units. According to the state’s conversion from animal units to individual animals, this equals more than 7 million chickens.
Four of the five largest CAFOs in the state raise poultry for eggs.
Schipper Poultry of Allegan County, also in the western region of the state, ranked second largest with slightly over 2.2 million chickens.
Sunrise Acres Eggs of Ottawa County, Vande Bunte Eggs of Allegan County and Vreba-Hoff Dairy of Jackson County followed.
The number confined
The Environmental Protection Agency also defines a large CAFO has having more than 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, 2,500 swine over 55 pounds each, 500 horses, 55,000 turkeys or 125,000 chickens.
Nearly all the CAFOs in Michigan meet this definition. The smallest CAFO in Michigan is in Ionia County, with approximately 588 dairy cows.
While many of Michigan’s CAFOs are large, the total 230 is not very many, when compared to some other states, according to Mike Bitando, environmental quality specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
“I have seen numbers in the thousands, or many more numbers than what Michigan has,” he said. “There are some states that have less than us, but many more that have more.”