Global Farmed & Factory Farmed Animals Estimates (Animals Alive at Present)
Last updated: 02/21/2019
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 "rodents, other" (not "rabbits, hares") and while we are similarly uncertain about their use as food, their total of 46.568 million in 2017 has a negligible effect on our rounded totals and no effect on our rounded percentages. Fish counts do not include fish farmed for bait.*
2012 FAO data (or estimate based on indicated sources)2017 FAO data2018 estimated****2019 estimated****Rounded 2019
Farmed land vertebrates27,980,869,01930,126,967,89230,575,549,42631,030,810,20631,000,000,000
'Factory farmed' land vertebrates**20,290,607,62422,555,916,08522,956,245,75923,000,000,000
Percent farmed land animals 'factory farmed'72.52%73.77%73.98%74%
Farmed fish lower***26,846,666,06936,807,305,52638,794,900,02438,800,000,000
Farmed fish midpoint***77,020,937,074105,597,214,773111,299,464,370111,300,000,000
Farmed fish upper***149,438,319,653204,882,866,075215,946,540,843215,900,000,000
Total farmed vertebrates with lower fish estimate54,827,535,08867,382,854,95269,825,710,23069,800,000,000
Total farmed vertebrates with midpoint fish estimate105,001,806,093136,172,764,199142,330,274,576142,300,000,000
Total farmed vertebrates with upper fish estimate177,419,188,672235,458,415,502246,977,351,049247,000,000,000
Total 'factory farmed' vertebrates with lower fish estimate47,137,273,69359,363,221,61161,751,145,78361,800,000,000
Total 'factory farmed' vertebrates with midpoint fish estimate97,311,544,699128,153,130,857134,255,710,129134,300,000,000
Total 'factory farmed' vertebrates with upper fish estimate169,728,927,277227,438,782,160238,902,786,602238,900,000,000
Percent all farmed vertebrates 'factory farmed' with lower fish estimate85.97%88.10%88.44%88%
Percent all farmed vertebrates 'factory farmed' with midpoint fish estimate92.68%94.11%94.33%94%
Percent all farmed vertebrates 'factory farmed' with upper fish estimate95.67%96.59%96.73%97%
* According to source "Fish used as live bait by recreational fisherman," 1 to 10 billion farmed baitfish are sold in the U.S. annually. estimates that 940 million farmed fathead minnows, 335 million farmed feeder goldfish, and 560 million farmed golden shiners were sold in the US 2005, but this may be an underestimate. This prevalence of bait fish farming does not appear to be standard globally.
* 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. Please also note that a CAFO as defined by the EPA and what the public would regard as a "factory farm" are not necessarily the same. For instance, a farm with 37,500 chickens or 3,000 pigs is only considered a CAFO if it meets certain conditions regarding surface water pollution, but farms of these sizes that don't meet these conditions could still house animals in ways that would be publicly regarded as crowded "factory" conditions.
** The Worldwatch egg figure is presumably 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 estimated that 60% of eggs globally are produced in "industrial systems," and their estimates for other products are similar to those made by Worldwatch. Estimates of numbers of total and caged hens by the Open Philanthropy Project (see sheet "Hen Estimates") suggest that the percentage of egg laying hens who were caged in 2012 was 89%, a figure closely matching the International Egg Commission's 2012/2013 estimate of 89.7% among member countries (which represent 3.85 billion hens). The IEC also estimates that another 7.8% are in "barn systems" while only 2.5% are in "free-range systems," so our global figure for "factory farmed" hens will combine their estimates of caged and "barn system" hens, resulting in a figure of 97.5%.
** The IEC also estimated the global egg-laying hen count in 2013 to be 7.0 billion, which is somewhat higher than Compassion in World Farming's contemporary estimate of 6.6 billion, which was based on FAO data for "Producing Animals/Slaughtered" which I believe referes to the number of animals slaughtered in the year, not the number alive at the time of data collection. Based on an international average egg-laying rate of 185/year, this is slightly higher than the number of in-shell eggs laid by hens as reported by the FAO for 2012 would predict, but slightly lower than the number of in-shell eggs laid by all birds as reported by the FAO for 2012 would predict, and ducks and quail have similar productivity to the international average for chickens. However, the figure is higher than the 6.0 billion predicted by the Open Philanthropy Project's estimates which account for 15% of FAO recorded egg-laying chickens' eggs being broiler hatching eggs (see "Open Philanthropy Hen Estimates" sheet), which strikes me as the most rigorous estimate of the number of hens used for the production of consumable eggs, so this is what we'll use.
** 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 unlikely to be in pasture-like conditions, 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.
** Worldwatch also reports that the FAO estimated 80% of growth in the livestock sector was in CAFOs, so the most recent estimate assumes 80% of livestock growth by head since 2012 was in factory farms, across species excepting egg-laying hens. Egg-laying hens' total caged plus "barn system" rate in 2012 was higher than 80%, which is incongruous with an 80% rate of growth in such systems unless pasture/"free range" systems have increased massively to account for around 14% of global production, which is implausible, so the rate of growth in factory farms for egg-laying hens is assumed to be uniform (i.e. consistent with their 2012/2013 rate of factory farming at 97.5%).
*** estimated in 2012 that 37 to 120 billion farmed fish are slaughtered annually, which we combined with Animal Charity Evaluators's estimates of fish lifespans among the four most commonly farmed species in the US, as well as mortalities, to estimate the number of fish alive in farms now. Lower estimate uses lower numbers for all three numbers, etc, weighted by US species distribution estimates -- see work on "Fish Estimates" sheet. Note that this means our caluclations assume global species distribution is consistent with US consumption.
*** 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.
**** Assumes growth for total land animal farming at average rate observed from 2012-2017, except for egg-laying hens whose rate is evaluated in the "Hen Estimates" sheet. Fish rate is evaluated in the "Fish Estimates" sheet. Note that smaller and more intensively-farmed animals such as meat chickens, who accounted for around half of farmed land animals in 2012, grow much more quickly in population size than large animals for the same increases in consumption of meat from each group, and that their consumption is increasing at a faster rate (see Our World in Data).
FAO data retrieved through a custom search of the FAOSTAT database (see sheet 'FAO Land Animal Estimates')
Fish used as live bait by recreational fisherman
Worldwatch 2012 estimates of factory farmed animals
EPA Regulatory Definitions of CAFOs
Worldwatch: State of the World 2004
Compassion in World Farming: Laying Hens Statistics
IEC: Global housing systems in laying hen husbandry
IEC: Egg Industry Review 2015
WattAgNet: Hen laying rates
FAO: Livestock's Long Shadow
Animal Charity Evaluators: Guesstimate Model of U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Farmed Finfish (see sheet 'Fish Estimates')
56 Estimating the Number of Farmed Fish Killed in Global Aquaculture Each Year
FAO: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016
FAO: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014
Our World in Data: Meat and Seafood Production & Consumption