Simple Summary: The global rise in demand for animal products for human consumption may well have an increasingly significant impact upon the natural environment, human health and the lives of farmed animals. This paper reviews some of the evidence for that impact and the future trajectories for livestock farming that it may well entail.
Abstract: There is a school of thought that future demand for meat and other farm animal products is unsustainable for several reasons, including greenhouse gas emissions, especially from ruminants; standards of farm animal health and welfare, especially when farm animals are kept intensively; efficiency of conversion by livestock of solar energy into (human) food, particularly by pigs and poultry; water availability and usage for all types of agricultural production, including livestock; and human health and consumption of meat, eggs and milk. Demand for meat is forecast to rise as a result of global population growth and increasing affluence. These issues buttress an impending perfect storm of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy, which is likely to coincide with global population reaching about 9 billion people in 2030 (pace Beddington). This paper examines global demand for animal products, the narrative of ‘sustainable intensification’ and the implications of each for the future of farm animal welfare. In the UK, we suggest that, though non-ruminant farming may become unsustainable, ruminant agriculture will continue to prosper because cows, sheep and goats utilize grass and other herbage that cannot be consumed directly by humans, especially on land that is unsuitable for other purposes. However, the demand for meat and other livestock-based food is often for pork, eggs and chicken from grain-fed pigs and poultry. The consequences of such a perfect storm are beginning to be incorporated in long-term business planning by retailers and others. Nevertheless, marketing sustainable animal produce will require considerable innovation and flair in public and private policies if marketing messages are to be optimized and consumer behaviour modified.
Keywords: livestock; sustainability; welfare
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Wathes, C.M.; Buller, H.; Maggs, H.; Campbell, M.L. Livestock Production in the UK in the 21st Century: A Perfect Storm Averted? Animals 2013, 3, 574-583.
Wathes CM, Buller H, Maggs H, Campbell ML. Livestock Production in the UK in the 21st Century: A Perfect Storm Averted? Animals. 2013; 3(3):574-583.
Wathes, Christopher M.; Buller, Henry; Maggs, Heather; Campbell, Madeleine L. 2013. "Livestock Production in the UK in the 21st Century: A Perfect Storm Averted?" Animals 3, no. 3: 574-583.