Animal Waste Management and Global Health (2016-2017)

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.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outputs

Animal Waste: Challenges Worth Solving

A Look at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in North Carolina: The Problems with Animal Waste and a Framework to Solve Them (report by Anna Balas, John Benhart, Jennifer Callejas, Allison Carmody, Lauren DaSilva, George Elliott, Billy Gerhard, Hanati Hailati, Daniel Inmacolato, Jennifer Lamy, Ashton Merck, Christopher Molthrop, Tianshu Sun, Alexandra Sutton, Lindsey Zimmer)

Animal Waste Management & Global Health (poster by Anna Balas, John Benhart, Jennifer Callejas, Allison Carmody, Lauren DaSilva, George Elliott, William Gerhard, Hanati Hailati, Daniel Inmacolato, Jennifer Lamy, Ashton Merck, Christopher Molthrop, Tianshu Sun, Lindsey Zimmer)


Four Views of Bass Connections at Duke


Ashton Merck, History '19

Lauren DaSilva

As Global Demand for Meat Increases, Animal Waste Management Is a Challenge Worth Solving (John Benhart)

An Overview of the Loyd Ray Farms Project (Lindsey Zimmer)

Creating a Collaborative Research Framework (Ashton Merck)

Taking on a Different Point of View (Lauren DaSilva)

The Essence of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (John Benhart)

Three Words: Chocolate Beet Cake (Allison Carmody)

Rural Sustainability Summit (Daniel Inmacolato)

A Semester of Challenges and Accomplishments (Anna Balas)

A Farm Tour Inspires Ideas for Sustainable Waste Management (Jennifer Lamy)

Carolina Food Summit Explores Southern Food Culture and Sustainable Systems (George Elliott)

This Team in the News

Meet the Members of the 2019-2020 Bass Connections Student Advisory Council

These Ph.D. Graduates Incorporated Bass Connections into Their Doctoral Education

Duke Law Faculty and Students Showcase Range of Expertise through Bass Connections Projects

During a Hurricane, Where Does All the Pig Poop Go? Into Your Water.

People Living Near Hog Farms See Higher Risk of Diseases, Study

Meet the Members of the 2018-19 Student Advisory Council

The History Ph.D.: Beyond ‘Alt-Ac’

Uncovering New Paths to Sustainability

“Bass Connections Equals Opportunity:” Four Undergraduates Share Their Perspectives

‘Gunk’ from Hog Farms, But Neighbors Left with Little Recourse

When to Do Collaborative Research? Early—and Often

Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative 2016 Annual Report

Meet the Members of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council

Nowlin Deepens Focus on Connections between Food and Agricultural Production and Environment

Factory Farming Practices Are Under Scrutiny Again in N.C. After Disastrous Hurricane Floods

These students are morally courageous. Students were not just looking at PowerPoint slides or images on Google Earth. Confronting this out in the field – in its totality – allowed us to have a shared experience, identify solutions and create meaningful impact. –Michelle Nowlin

Team Leaders

  • Charles Adair, Duke Sustainability Program
  • H. Kim Lyerly, School of Medicine-Surgery
  • Michelle Nowlin, Duke Law

/graduate Team Members

  • Alexandra Sutton, Environment-PHD
  • Allison Carmody, Environment-AM
  • Tianshu Sun, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy, International Development Pol
  • Ori Sharon, Doctor of Juridical Science
  • Billy Gerhard, Civil & Environmental Engg-MS
  • Hanati Hailati, Global Health - MSc
  • Jennifer Lamy, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Ashton Merck, History-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Daniel Inmacolato, Economics (BS)
  • Lindsey Zimmer, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Christopher Molthrop, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Anna Balas, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • George Elliott, Political Science (AB)
  • Lauren DaSilva, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Jennifer Callejas, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • John Benhart, Computer Science (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • David Schwartz, Duke Law