12 States That Kill the Most Animals

April 15, 2015 by Thomas C. Frohlich

ThinkstockPhotos-452790087The United States consumes the most meat per capita of any nation in the world. As of 2009, Americans consumed an average of 265 pounds of meat per person annually, dwarfing the global average of 92 pounds per person. The nation’s voracious appetite for meat has created a massive and heavily mechanized domestic meat industry. The United States produced about 132 billion pounds of meat in 2013.

Chickens, cattle, and hogs make up the vast majority of meats produced in the country. More than 8.5 billion chickens were slaughtered nationwide in 2014, followed by roughly 32.5 million cattle, and 112 million pigs in 2013.

Based on the 2014 Department of Agriculture (USDA) Livestock Slaughter report, Nebraska slaughtered more meat, by weight, than any other state. Roughly 8.7% of meat slaughtered in the United States in 2013 came from Nebraska, or nearly 11.5 billion pounds of meat. These are the states slaughtering the most animals.

Click here to see the most dangerous states for animals. 

Over the last 50 to 60 years, farming has become increasingly concentrated in fewer companies and fewer locations. In 2013, 12 states produced about two-thirds of total slaughtered meat by live weight in the country.

The production of particular types of livestock is even more concentrated in several of these states. For example, more than 22% of all U.S. cattle were slaughtered in Nebraska, a higher share than in any other state. And more than 26% of pigs were slaughtered in Iowa, also the highest such share nationwide.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St. Erik Bohlman, chief of the animal products branch at the USDA, and Sahar Angadjivand, agricultural economist at the USDA, explained that the concentration of the livestock industry in these states is partly attributable to the presence of feed sources and available grazing areas. Corn production, for example, which is a primary source of feed for livestock, is heavily produced in the Heartland region, including Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri — three of the nation’s top meat producers.

Some animal advocacy groups maintain the inhumane treatment of animals is also an issue, especially at large farms producing massive quantities of meat. Poor treatment can also vary between livestock types. Lindsay Rajt, associate director of campaigns at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said “chickens suffer greatly [and] are arguably one of the most abused animals on the planet.”

Slightly more than 1.4 million people were employed in food manufacturing, roughly 1.1% of all U.S. workers. Of that, roughly a third were employed in animal slaughtering and processing. However, the meat slaughter industry is not evenly distributed across the country, so its impact on employment varies considerably across states. For example, in Nebraska, more than 2.7% were employed in animal slaughter and processing. By contrast, only 0.01% of workers in Nevada, the second-lowest meat producing state, were employed in animal slaughter and processing.

To identify the most dangerous states for animals, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total live weight of animals slaughtered in each state as a percentage of total weight slaughtered nationwide in 2013 from the USDA’s Livestock Slaughter report. Figures for poultry are as of 2014. The report included the number of cattle, calves, hogs, sheep and lambs, chickens, and turkeys slaughtered in 2013, as well as the weight in pounds of the meat produced. We also reviewed the number and share of a state’s workforce employed in food manufacturing from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

These are the most dangerous states for animals.

12. Mississippi
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
4.35 billion
> Pct. of national production: 3.3%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Chicken
> Animal slaughtering employment: 16,830 (12th highest)

About 4.35 billion pounds of livestock were slaughtered in Mississippi in 2013, the 12th highest weight nationwide. Poultry accounts for the largest share of the total pounds slaughtered nationwide. Similarly, nearly all of the meat produced in Mississippi came from chickens, and the state’s chicken production made up about 8.5% of all chicken meat slaughtered nationwide. Of the 22,570 workers in Mississippi employed in food manufacturing nearly 17,000 worked in animal slaughtering and processing, one of the higher nominal figures in the country.

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11. California
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
4.81 billion
> Pct. of national production: 3.7%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Cattle
> Animal slaughtering employment: 21,950 (8th highest)

A cow bred for beef production consumes as much as 30 gallons of water per day. An abundant water source is therefore essential for raising livestock as it is for most other agricultural activities. While California’s severe drought conditions will likely hurt agricultural output in the near future, the state was among the top meat producers in 2013. California’s livestock slaughter totalled more than 4.8 billion pounds, nearly half of which came from cattle. Chickens accounted for about a third of animals slaughtered in the state.

10. Missouri
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
4.92 billion
> Pct. of national production: 3.7%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Hog
> Animal slaughtering employment: 16,800 (13th highest)

Missouri produced about 2.4 billion live pounds of hog in 2013, the fifth largest amount in the country and up slightly from the year before. Hogs accounted for about half of all livestock slaughter in the state. Of the nearly 31 billion live pounds of hog slaughtered across the country, 7.7% came from Missouri. The state was also a top chicken producer, slaughtering about 443.7 million chickens, or 2.1 billion live pounds — both the seventh highest figures nationwide. Chicken production comprised about 43% of all livestock pounds slaughtered in Missouri. As in several other top meat-producing states, Missouri is a major source of corn, which supplies the bulk of feed for many types of livestock.

9. Minnesota
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
5.31 billion
> Pct. of national production: 4.0%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Hog
> Animal slaughtering employment: 16,060 (14th highest)

Minnesota slaughtered 5.31 billion pounds of live meat in 2013, 4% of the national total. The meat industry in Minnesota is reasonably diverse, producing large amounts of cattle, hogs, chicken, and turkey. While hogs are the number one meat produced in Minnesota, the state is the biggest producer of turkey in the nation. In 2013, Minnesota slaughtered 42.6 million turkeys, more than 17% of the national total of roughly 238 million turkeys. This comprised more than 20% of Minnesota’s total meat slaughter by weight.

8. Alabama
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
5.66 billion
> Pct. of national production: 4.3%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Chicken
> Animal slaughtering employment: 22,650 (7th highest)

The meat industry in Alabama is almost entirely devoted to chicken slaughter, with chicken making up more than 99% of the state’s total meat production. In 2013, the state slaughtered just over 1 billion chickens, for a total weight of nearly 5.7 billion pounds. More than 22,500 people were employed in animal slaughter and processing, 1.22% of all workers in the state. By contrast, just 0.4% of the American workforce was employed in animal slaughtering and processing. In 2013, more than 44,000 animals were slaughtered per animal slaughter worker, a dramatically higher ratio than most states and second only to West Virginia.

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7. Arkansas
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
6.03 billion
> Pct. of national production: 4.6%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Chicken
> Animal slaughtering employment: 29,340 (4th highest)

Nearly 11% of the nationwide weight of chickens killed were slaughtered in Arkansas, where more than 871 million young chickens were slaughtered last year, the third highest such kill count in the country. Poultry accounted for nearly all of the meat production in the state, with roughly 90% coming from chickens and the rest mostly from turkey. Still, nearly 10% of national turkey meat was produced in Arkansas. Food manufacturing is a major employer in the state, with 3.7% of workers employed in the industry, a larger share than in every other state.

6. Georgia
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
7.30 billion
> Pct. of national production: 5.5%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Chicken
> Animal slaughtering employment: 34,140 (2nd highest)

Georgia killed 1.2 billion animals in 2013, the largest number compared with all other states. Chickens accounted for the vast majority of the animals slaughtered in the state. Chicken slaughtering in Georgia also made up more than 14% of all chicken meat production nationwide, the largest such share compared with other states. Georgia is home to Atlanta-based Gold Kist, which produces millions of chickens for the United States and other countries around the world each week. After merging with Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride in 2006, Gold Kist became the largest poultry company in the world. In addition to the intensive factory farming in Georgia, state residents hunted and killed nearly 140,000 bucks in 2013, the fourth highest such figure nationwide.

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5. Kansas
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
8.30 billion
> Pct. of national production: 6.3%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Cattle
> Animal slaughtering employment: 18,320 (9th highest)

Cattle accounted for nearly all meat production in Kansas. More than 6.3 million cows were slaughtered in Kansas in 2013, a higher kill count than in all states except for Nebraska. The live weight of animals slaughtered in Kansas totalled 8.3 billion, which was nearly 20% of all cattle production across the nation. According to the Kansas Livestock Association, the cattle industry generated $7.75 billion in cash receipts, about half of all Kansas agricultural dollars collected in 2013. The food manufacturing industry also employed more than 31,000 Kansas workers, a higher nominal figure than in most states.

4. Iowa
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
8.8 billion
> Pct. of national production: 6.7%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Hog
> Animal slaughtering employment: 27,870 (5th highest)

Iowa is the uncontested king of the nation’s hog industry. In 2013, Iowa slaughtered roughly 8.8 billion pounds of live meat, 6.7% of the nation’s total. More than 90% of that was hogs. Of the 112 million hogs slaughtered nationwide in 2013, Iowa slaughtered just under 30 million, or more than 25% of the total. The state with the next highest hog slaughter count for the period, North Carolina, slaughtered less than 40% of that number. Roughly 1.8% of the workers in Iowa were employed in animal slaughter and processing, the third highest share of any state in the nation. Iowa is one of the two largest corn producing states in the nation. Corn is frequently as feed for livestock, including hogs.

3. North Carolina
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
9.87 billion
> Pct. of national production: 7.5%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Chicken
> Animal slaughtering employment: 31,420 (3rd higher)

North Carolina slaughtered a total of 9.87 billion pounds of live meat in 2013, or 7.5% of the nation’s total. About 60% of the weight came from nearly 740 million slaughtered chickens. While it is dwarfed by the state’s larger chicken and hog industries, North Carolina is a major player in the nation’s turkey industry. The state slaughtered slightly less than 950 million pounds of turkey in 2013, or about 27.6 million turkeys, just under 12% of the nation’s total.

2. Texas
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
11.32 billion
> Pct. of national production: 8.6%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Cattle
> Animal slaughtering employment: 35,340 (the highest)

Texas is one of the juggernauts of the nation’s commercial meat industry. In 2013, the state slaughtered 11.32 billion pounds of live weight, or 8.6% percent of the nation’s total. While the Texas meat industry is at least a modest-sized player across several meat categories, its two specialties are cattle and hogs, which accounted for 66% and 32% of the total state meat slaughter by pound in 2013, respectively. The state is one of the top three cattle producers in the nation. In 2013, the state slaughtered roughly 7.5 billion pounds of cattle, or more than 17% of the national total. Texas also led the nation in hunting kills, with a reported 330,535 bucks in 2013.

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1. Nebraska
> Total live weight slaughtered (lbs.):
11.47 billion
> Pct. of national production: 8.7%
>Most slaughtered animal (lbs): Cattle
> Animal slaughtering employment: 25,760 (6th highest)

Nebraska just edged out Texas for the distinction of slaughtering the most meat by weight of all states. The state’s slaughter total that year was nearly 11.5 billion pounds of live meat. The slaughtering industry had an almost singular focus on cattle, which accounted for more than 80% of the total slaughter weight in the state. At slightly more than 9.3 billion pounds of cattle slaughtered, Nebraska was the number one cattle producer in 2013. Nebraska also had a larger share of its labor force working in the animal slaughter industry than any other state. Nearly 26,000, or about 2.7% of all workers in the state, were employed in animal slaughter and processing. Nebraska is home to the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a network of laboratories intended to make meat production more profitable.