Animal Waste Management and Global Health


Fall 2016 - Spring 2017


Animal waste associated with meat production has significant global health implications. Waste from animal production sites can greatly affect the surrounding environment, leading to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and decreases in water and air quality. In addition, many types of animal production processes routinely use antibiotics, which can pass into the environment through waste and lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Waste management practices can also determine the health of the animals, affecting the spread of disease between animal production sites and from animals to humans.

Waste management systems are often determined by local policies, pointing to a need for innovative policymaking to manage increases in animal waste around the globe. Waste-to-energy systems represent one particularly innovative solution with significant potential to mitigate the health impacts of animal waste and provide renewable energy.

The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative and the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic led this Bass Connections project to identify and compare how policies affect animal waste management in a variety of settings and the concurrent health effects.

In the fall, team members developed an understanding of the industry structure and waste management practices employed by large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the U.S. Since North Carolina is a national leader in both hog and poultry production, the team focused on learning about these industries and state and federal regulations pertaining to animal waste management, development of alternative waste-to-energy projects and the various impacts CAFOs have on the environmental and human health of communities. This work culminated in a comprehensive research paper on CAFOs in the United States and the policies that can either promote or hinder novel waste-management technologies.

In the spring, the applied its research framework to the livestock sector and waste management practices in five other countries: China, South Africa, Brazil, the Netherlands and Australia. Team members used this research to contextualize the state and federal policies examined last semester and to identify policies and practices that have the potential to inform or shape U.S. animal waste management practices.

Team members developed a website to summarize their research and offer targeted policy proposals to shape animal waste management practices in the United States.




Ashton Merck, Christopher Molthrop, William Gerhard, Jennifer Lamy, Allison Carmody, Hanati Hailati, Anna Balas, John Benhart, Jennifer Callejas, Lauren DaSilva, George Elliott, Daniel Inmacolato, Tianshu Sun, Lindsey Zimmer


Michelle Nowlin, Kim Lyerly, Charles Adair


Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

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Bass Connections


Air & Climate, air quality, animal waste, CAFO, Energy, Food & Dining, GHG emissions, Research, Waste, water quality