Sentience Institute Global Farmed & Factory Farmed Animals Estimates
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Last updated: 08/13/2018
Please note that these estimates have substantial uncertainty. This is primarily because the land animal estimates rely heavily on a Worldwatch Institute estimate of unclear sourcing, and because data on fish farming is limited so estimates pertaining to fish are very rough.
These numbers are for vertebrates only. Numbers exclude asses, mules, horses, camels, and camelids, as the percentage who are used for food after being used for labor is unknown to us. Numbers do include "pigeons, other birds," and while we similarly though somewhat more certain about their use as food, their total of 28.5 million in 2016 has no noticable effect on our rounded totals or percentages. Fish counts do not include fish farmed for bait.*
2012 FAO Data or Estimated
2016 FAO Data2018 EstimatedRounded 2018
Farmed land vertebrates27,980,869,01929,998,843,04231,061,767,11931,100,000,000
'Factory farmed' land vertebrates** (2018 estimate assumes 80% of livestock growth by head 2014-2017 was in factory farms)19,905,149,54622,369,868,02622,400,000,000
'Factory farmed' land vertebrates** (2018 estimate assumes constant proportion of animals are factory farmed, which is very unlikely as the world is industrializing)19,905,149,54620,610,432,16920,600,000,000
Percent farmed land animals 'factory farmed'71.14%72.02%72%
Farmed fish lower***25,781,206,54433,535,616,34633,500,000,000
Farmed fish mean***70,711,749,15791,980,260,38292,000,000,000
Farmed fish upper***128,796,919,707167,536,149,964167,500,000,000
Total farmed vertebrates with lower fish estimate53,762,075,56364,597,383,46564,600,000,000
Total farmed vertebrates with mean fish estimate98,692,618,176123,042,027,501123,000,000,000
Total farmed vertebrates with upper fish estimate156,777,788,726198,597,917,083198,600,000,000
Total 'factory farmed' vertebrates with lower fish estimate45,686,356,09055,905,484,37155,900,000,000
Total 'factory farmed' vertebrates with mean fish estimate90,616,898,703114,350,128,408114,400,000,000
Total 'factory farmed' vertebrates with upper fish estimate148,702,069,253189,906,017,990189,900,000,000
Percent all farmed vertebrates 'factory farmed' with lower fish estimate84.98%86.54%87%
Percent all farmed vertebrates 'factory farmed' with mean fish estimate91.82%92.94%93%
Percent all farmed vertebrates 'factory farmed' with upper fish estimate94.85%95.62%96%
* 1 to 10 billion farmed baitfish are sold in the U.S. annually.
*, however, estimates that only 940 million farmed fathead minnows, 335 million farmed feeder goldfish, and 560 million farmed golden shiners were sold in the US 2005.
* It seems that all feed fish are wild-caught, but if any are farmed, they are missing from these figures as well.
** A Worldwatch article posted on March 23 2012 states that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs, commonly referred to as "factory farms") "now account for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide." They do not provide their methodology so we have substantial uncertainty in these estimates.
** Their egg figure may also be a typo as in 2004 Worldwatch had reported that the figure for beef was 43 percent, while eggs were 68 percent, and egg production has only increased in the interim so such a drop in % CAFOs is extremely unlikely. Compassion in World Farming also estimates that 60% of eggs globally are produced in "industrial systems," and their estimates for other products are similar to those made by Worldwatch. Note that these estimates are presumably made by weight of the products (or count for eggs) rather than head of the producing animals, and factory farmed animals produce more per head -- for instance leghorns, the most common breed of hen used to make eggs in 'factory farms,' lay around 300 eggs in their peak year, while Rhode Island Reds and other breeds more typical of pasture farms lay around 250. The weighted average of 25 countries which account for 79% of global egg production and for which estimates were found by Open Philanthropy Project for the percentage of egg laying hens who were merely caged around 2012 is 88% (83% unweighted, see "Open Philanthropy Hen Estimates" sheet). This suggests that globally a minimum of around 70% of hens are caged (and that's if all the remaining 21% or so whose conditions were not evaluated are not caged, which is unlikely), with 83-88% more likely, if not higher given increasing industrialization in the five or so years since these numbers were taken. Given all of this, and that "factory" systems are not restricted to cages, we will use 88% as our global figure for 'factory farmed' hens, understanding that this is probably conservative.
** All other ruminants and unspecified species are estimated at the 2004 43% figure for beef, which is probably conservative as the industrialization of their circumstances presumably increased between then and 2012. Rodents are estimated at 50%, as the beef figure is presumably highly conservative for small animals who are less likely to be in pastures, in addition to which by 2012 proportions in CAFOs likely increased, though this is still likely conservative as other small animals, such as birds, tend to be overwhelmingly in CAFOs
** The International Egg Commission estimated the global egg-laying hen count in 2013 to be 7.0 billion. This is slightly higher than Compassion in World Farming's contemporary estimate of 6.6 billion. It is also higher than the 6.0 billion estimate made by Open Philanthropy Project accounting for 15% of eggs being broiler hatching eggs (see "Open Philanthropy Hen Estimates" sheet). Based on an international average egg-laying rate of 185/year, this is also slightly higher than the number of in-shell eggs laid by hens as reported by the FAO for 2012, but it is slightly lower than the number of in-shell eggs laid by all birds as reported by the FAO for 2012. Note that ducks and quail have similar productivity to the international average for chickens. We will therefore take 7.0 billion as an estimate of the total number of birds used for "egg production," and assume that 'factory farmed' rates are comparable for all species.
** Worldwatch also reports that the FAO estimated 80% of growth in the livestock sector was in CAFOs.
*** estimated in 2012 that 37 to 120 billion farmed fish are slaughtered annually. See Animal Charity Evaluators Guesstimate for estimates of fish lifespans among the four most commonly farmed species in the US, as well as mortalities. Lower estimate uses lower numbers for all three numbers, etc, weighted by US species distribution estimates -- see work on "ACE Fish Guesstimates" sheet. The FAO estimated that 66.6 million tonnes of fish were produced on farms in 2012 and 73.8 million in 2014, which gives us an annual growth estimate of 1.054% assuming variables like species distributions, growth rates, and age at slaughter stay constant.
*** We suspect virtually all farmed fish are in “factory” conditions.
FAO data retrieved through a custom search of the FAOSTAT database
Worldwatch 2012 estimates
Worldwatch 2004 report
EPA CAFO definitions
Compassion in World Farming stats
Compassion in World Farming egg-laying hen estimates
FAO's Livestock's Long Shadow report
International Egg Commision review
Hen laying rates
Animal Charity Evaluators US farmed finfish per capita consumption Guesstimate, see ACE Fish Guesstimates sheet
53 farmed fish estimate
See FAO "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture" 2014 and 2016 for 2012 and 2014 farmed fish weight estimates
Estimated % Chickens and Fish 2017
FAO Land Animal Estimates 2000-2016
OpenPhil Hen Estimates
ACE Fish Guesstimates
Species Population Ranking 2016
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