North Carolina Factory Farms Produce 15,000 Olympic Pools’ Worth of Urine and Feces

A new article by Civil Eats discusses the impacts of manure lagoons on the environment and people of North Carolina. 

The meat industry has exploded in North Carolina over the past few decades. The number of pigs in the state has nearly doubled to 9.5 million, making North Carolina second only to Iowa in pig farming. The state also ranks third in the country for chicken meat production, increasing its flock from 60 million to 148 million birds in just 20 years.

Pig farming earns North Carolina almost $3 billion per year, but that economic benefit comes at its own cost. Each year, North Carolina’s pig factory farms produce nearly 10 billion gallons of feces and urine. That’s enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. Meanwhile, chickens and turkeys in North Carolina produce 2 million tons of dry waste each year.

According to the article, pig farms house an average of 4,000 animals. The waste is stored in large open-air lagoons that turn “Pepto-Bismol” pink from bacteria. Farmers occasionally apply the fecal mixture to “sprayfields” with high-pressure guns in an effort to prevent the lagoons from overflowing.

Watch this video of a drone flying over a manure lagoon in North Carolina. 


This toxic mist often carries into neighboring yards, sickening residents. It also runs off into nearby waterways, poisoning everything in its path. 

The kitchen of 67-year-old Elsie Herring is just feet away from one of these lagoons. When the wind blows west, she can’t keep her windows open. “You can smell the odor inside. The feces, the ammonia—all that stuff—we have to breathe it in, because we have to breathe,” she says.  

Herring describes physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, excessive coughing, watery eyes, and the urge to vomit. Nearby residents are also often anxious and depressed from the helplessness they feel and the lack of relief from the stench.

Unfortunately, there is little residents can do. Moving is typically not an option, as most of these residents live in poverty

You can help the environment and people like Elsie by not supporting the meat industry. 

The compassionate choice to go vegetarian benefits not only our planet and humanity, but also animals. 

Get your FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide here.