The 'Farmed Animal Welfare' wiki page on the EA Forum defines factory farming as being farms where can involve "intense confinement, inhibition of natural behaviours, untreated health issues, and numerous other causes of suffering"
However, confinement, inhibition of natural behaviours and treatment of health issues are not binary values, they are sliding scales. This is easy to see with 'confinement' - we can measure the size of an enclosure that an animal is being kept in. 'Health issues' is harder to quantify, but could be done with various metrics, like how many animals experience disease, and 'inhibition of natural behaviours' could be measured by things like time spent outdoors, amount of space, or access to an appropriate amount of their kin.
There must be a point at which a farm is sufficiently cruel to animals on all these points that it can be defined as a Factory Farm, and conversely there must be a point at which a farm can no longer be defined as a Factory Farm. My question is: Where is this point? How many square metres, or hours spent outside, or medical treatment per animal, is sufficient for a farm to not be considered a factory farm?
The answers to these questions would have big outcomes on statistics like 'x amount of animals live in factory farms'. This seems like it should be an obvious point, but when I've read articles that quote these statistics, I haven't been able to find out how exactly they define a factory farm.
Reese, Jacy (2016) Why animals matter for effective altruism, Effective Altruism Forum, August 22.
Are you sure? My guess is that it wouldn't change much, that most factory farms are "obviously" factory farms, because there isn't a lot of economic or moral incentive to sit on the borderline.
Maybe not for most people reading the people reading the EA forum. I think if you take a serious look at the issues of animal suffering and farmed animal conditions, you'll probably arrive at a number similar to existing statistics on numbers of factory farmed animals.
But I think there's plenty of people who have motivated reasoning to doubt those statistics, or minimise the badness/factory-ness of a farm, or farming practice. For example, my extended family run a dairy farm. I remember when first reading about factory farms thinking 'well, the family farm isn't like these factory farms... right? '
I also think it's possible animal agriculturists will seize on uncertainty around the term 'Factory Farm' to sow confusion and whitewash animal welfare issues. Suppose that in the future, the concept of 'Factory Farms' gains widespread public vilification, in the same way that 'Fossil Fuels' does now. Now imagine a pan-European animal agriculture lobby group seizes on the looseness of the term 'Factory Farm' to ensure European farms aren't associated with it:
European farms aren't Factory Farms! We have better animal welfare standards here. There are cage-free policies here! Animal welfare laws! Standards and checks! It's only farms outside of Europe that are factory farms, those are the ones that should be counted in the statistics, not European farms!
I don't see this as "economic or moral incentive to sit on the borderline" but rather 'if forced to adhere to higher welfare standards, there's an incentive to maximise the reputational gain from this'.
edit: added last paragraph