Pork is the world’s most consumed meat from terrestrial animals.
Demand for pork has been rising in recent decades as a result of changes in consumption patterns as incomes increase in developing countries with fast-growing economies. Together with poultry, the pig sector is the fastest growing livestock subsector: animal numbers will reach 1 billion by 2015 – double the number in the 1970s. Pig production is global, except for some regions with cultural and religious reservations regarding the consumption of pork.
Pig production worldwide is characterized by an increasing dichotomy of production systems – traditional subsistence-driven small-scale production on the one side, and specialized industrial farming on the other. The latter has a distribution pattern similar to the intensive poultry sector in that it is concentrated near towns and sources of inputs.
Major improvements in pig breeding technologies in recent decades have turned commercial pig production into a high-input, high-output industry. To exploit the full genetic potential of the handful of breeds used in modern production systems, producers must provide standardized environments for their animals. For small-scale producers, it is difficult to achieve such a level of investment and market participation is therefore less likely. But in certain settings small-scale pig production using crossbreeds or locally adapted animals supplies niche markets, contributes to food security, improves the livelihoods of millions of producers and fulfils cultural purposes.
In line with the FAO mandate, the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) is addressing the needs of small-scale and subsistence producers and those of medium-scale commercial production systems. FAO supports their contribution to improved livelihoods and food security – which is often underestimated – by generating and disseminating information and providing technical support and assistance as part of its pro-poor sector policy development.
The Pigs and... section of the AGA website provides an overview of major topics related to pig production and pork consumption and offers direct links to all relevant FAO material. For a more information on pig production, with a special emphasis on small-scale production in the tropics, please refer to our collaborating website PIGTrop.