Nearly Half a Million Animals Killed in Barn Fires in 2023

Barn Fire
Photo by Shane Murphy

Washington, DC—More than 468,000 farmed animals have been killed in barn fires so far this year, according to an Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) analysis of media reports released today. The release comes just two days after a fire at a Delaware factory farm reportedly killed nearly 200,000 egg-laying hens. In total, more than 6.8 million farmed animals have perished in barn fires over the last decade — a grim reminder that more can be done to improve fire safety and prevention measures on farms.

Barn fires impact operations of all sizes — from small hobby farms to large commercial facilities housing hundreds of thousands of animals.

Of the 90 barn fires tracked by AWI this year, Pennsylvania reported the most with nine, followed by Indiana with eight, and Illinois with seven.

As in previous years, birds accounted for the majority (over 95%) of barn fire victims. Given that the US poultry industry raises and slaughters billions of birds each year, it is not uncommon for a single barn fire to kill a massive number of birds — from several thousand to a million.

Also consistent with previous years, the majority of the farmed animal deaths from barn fires in 2023 have resulted from a small number of massive fires on large-scale mega farms. In addition to Saturday’s egg farm fire in Delaware, a January fire at a Hillandale Farms egg operation in Bozrah, CT, and an October fire at a Cal-Maine egg operation in Bremen, KY, reportedly killed an estimated 100,000 hens each. In April, South Fork Dairy in Dimmitt, TX, made global headlines when a massive fire and explosion killed around 18,000 cows, making it the deadliest fire involving cattle since AWI began tracking barn fires in 2013.

Taken together, these four fires accounted for 89% of total barn fire deaths this year.

The number of animals killed each year can vary significantly based on the frequency and impact of large fires. For instance, the three largest barn fires in 2022 killed a total of 480,000 birds, accounting for about 95% of barn fire victims that year. A record 1.6 million farmed animals were killed in barn fires in 2020, compared to about 150,000 in 2018.

Furthermore, these numbers do not even represent the full scale of the tragedy. Fire departments and municipalities are not required to report many key details of barn fires, including the number of animals killed. Moreover, there are no federal laws in the United States that require agriculture operations to implement fire protection measures to protect animals.

“It is extremely difficult to comprehend the suffering experienced by nearly half a million living, sentient beings who were burned alive on farms this year,” said Allie Granger, senior policy associate for AWI’s farmed animal program. “Fire safety must remain top of mind for the agriculture industry, especially on large-scale operations that leave so many animals at risk.”

“Sadly, devastating barn fires and other on-farm emergencies are a consequence of cramming animals by the thousands into facilities with no chance to escape,” Granger added. “This speaks to the broader problem of how we raise animals for food in this country.”

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.