Working Conditions in Factory Farms

Factory farm workers are exposed to numerous workplace hazards. Workers in hog barns are exposed to much higher levels of dust, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, noise, and odour than are farmers in smaller scale operations due to the difference in the amount of time each spends in barns. They are also exposed to drugs and hormones used in factory farm production.

Hydrogen sulphide poisoning

Hydrogen sulphide is produced by decomposing liquid manure. It is a colourless, odourless deadly gas that can reach hazardous concentrations in confined spaces. Several Canadian workers have died and many have been affected by H2S poisoning.

Exposure to Antibiotic resistant pathogens

The routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock in factory farms results in microbes evolving antibiotic resistance {link to Antibiotic fact sheet>. Workers exposed to these pathogens can become sick, or become carriers of the disease, spreading it within their communities.

  • Guelph Researchers Find MRSA in Pigs
    “The researchers found no difference in the prevalence of MRSA among suckling, weanling and grower-finisher pigs, but they concluded that people working on pig farms are at higher risk for MRSA than the general population.”


Thousands of pigs in a confined space make a lot of noise. Studies have shown that decibel levels in intensive hog barns are above safety thresholds much of the time. Continuous exposure to such noise leads to stress and hearing loss.

Air quality and respiratory disease

  • “Large hog barns are complex environments with a variety of gases and dusts present. It is well documented in the international scientific literature that exposure to the air in large hog barns may cause short and long term harmful health effects in workers.”
    Industrial Hog Barns - Air Quality Occupational Health Considerations by Manitoba Federation of Labour, Occupational Health Centre, Inc. April 2007