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Livestock production is growing rapidly as a result of the increasing demand for animal products. FAO projections suggest that global meat production and consumption will rise from 233 million tonnes (2000) to 300 million t (2020), and milk from 568 to 700 million t over the same period. Egg production will also increase by 30 percent. This forecast shows a massive increase in animal protein demand, needed to satisfy the growth in the human population. Asia is experiencing the world’s highest growth rates in production and consumption of livestock products (meat, milk and eggs). The issues to be addressed are the environmental and feed supply problems arising from the concentration of livestock production.

The big increase in animal protein demand over the last few decades has been largely met by the world wide growth in intensive livestock production, particularly poultry and pigs. This is expected to continue as real income grows in the emerging economies.

Feed grains are thought to compete directly, or in the use of land, with grains for human consumption and because there is inefficient use of feed and energy in some livestock systems, it is often blamed for this occurrence. However, if efficiency is seen over the entire production chain, and expressed as input of edible human food/output in human edible food, the view of animal production takes on a more positive outlook. Note that 233 million t meat, 568 million t milk and 55 million t eggs produced globally contain more than 65 million t of protein. So while input is higher than output, if improved protein quality on the output side is considered, a reasonable balance emerges.

A recent FAO study shows that the increasing use of feed grains has not had an adverse effect on the provision of cereals for human consumption. Indeed, many argue that the production of cereals for feed acts as a global buffer and therefore has a positive effect on global food security.

Over the last 30 years, FAO has worked in the field to develop technologies for integrated farming systems appropriate to small producers, particularly in the tropics. For ruminant livestock, urea treatment of straw and the use of multi-nutrient blocks have been shown to greatly improve nutrition of animals fed on low quality roughage diets. Legumes and tree forages have also provided needed protein inputs into cattle, sheep and goat production systems, while benefiting the environment through nitrogen fixation and organic matter.

These technologies have been combined into integrated farming systems for the small producer. Such improved systems are biologically sustainable and achieve high levels of production, with minimal environmental problems as the manure is recycled or used for biogas production.

Undoubtedly, the technologies have contributed to the improvement of income and lifestyle of small farmers and represent an effective approach to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. But the approach has been divorced from the parallel growth of intensive livestock production systems throughout the world, which can be seen as providing the bulk of supply to meet the demand.

The challenge is to enable small producers (who are usually the ones applying the more sustainable technologies and integration of farming activities) to have access to a wider market - termed Ruralizing the Livestock Revolution. There is also a need and demand for low cost and simple technologies for livestock and product processing.

In recent years and in many countries, public concern about the safety of foods of animal origin has heightened due to problems that have arisen with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), dioxin contamination, outbreaks of food borne bacterial infections, as well as growing concern about veterinary drug residues and microbial resistance to antibiotics. These problems have drawn attention to feeding practices within the livestock industry and have prompted health professionals and the feed industry to closely scrutinise feed quality and safety problems that can arise in foods of animal origin as a result of animal feeding systems.

Given the direct links between feed safety and safety of foods of animal origin, it is essential that feed production and manufacture be considered as an integral part of the food production chain. Feed production must therefore be subject, in the same way as food production, to quality assurance including feed safety systems.

The industry is ultimately responsible for the quality and safety of the food and feed that it produces. National authorities should provide guidance to industry and this includes codes of practice and standards that the industry must respect. International organizations also have an important role to play in providing information and training which could be used at national level to improve the knowledge and skill of those involved in all areas of the feed industry, including primary producers of feed materials. By doing so, failures in food/feed safety systems can be prevented rather than doing damage.

Dialogue among producers of feed or feed ingredients, livestock and aquaculture industries and government should be encouraged as an essential part of the process of elaborating codes of practice for the feed industry. A close partnership between government and the producers will ensure the promulgation of regulations and guidelines acceptable to both parties.

In view of foregoing issues and production trends, the FAO Expert Consultation and Workshop on Protein Sources for the Animal Feed Industry was held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 29 April to 3 May 2002. This Consultation included talks by experts on the overview of world protein needs and supply; scientific aspects of protein nutrition of farm animals; local protein resources and supplementation for livestock production; the agricultural alternatives for the production of increased supplies of protein feeds from oilseeds, legumes and by-products; and innovative developments in the production and delivery of protein raw materials. It also included a discussion on the world market and sources of proteins for the animal feed industry: present and future trends, problems and perceptions of feed safety and developments in the feed industry.

It is hoped that the output of this meeting would reinforce the partnership not only between government and the producers but all those involved in the feed industry, so that, any farmer would always have a chance to compete in the global market.

Changchui He
Assistant Director General and Regional Representative
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand

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