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Industrial livestock production

Industrial production of pork, poultry, beef and mutton is growing faster than any other system. From 37 percent of world meat production in 1991-3 to 43 percent in 1996, more than half the world's pork and poultry, one-tenth of its beef and mutton and more than two-thirds of its egg supply have come from industrial production. As might be anticipated, the developed countries dominate the intensive pig and poultry industries.

HOTSPOT: SOIL AND WATER POLLUTION BECAUSE OF EXCESS NUTRIENTS. Industrial production can create enormous pollution problems because it brings in large quantities of nutrients in the form of concentrate feed and then has to dispose of the manure to nearby land which quickly becomes saturated. As a result, land and groundwater are polluted.

Industrial production of pork, poultry, beef and mutton is growing faster than grazing and mixed farming.

Key forces encouraging this trend are poor infrastructure and weak regulations. Where roads are inadequate and transport costs high, industrial units are usually based close to urban dfghjkl;. This has happened in Asia, for example, where industrial livestock production has developed very quickly and where a weak regulatory structure compounds the risks to human health, especially those associated with inadequately regulated slaughterhouses and processing industries.

What could be done:

The challenge is to obtain higher efficiencies without concentrating livestock in certain areas. With improvements in transport and storage it will be possible to produce livestock products closer to feed production, allowing also for the waste not only to be absorbed, hut to return the nutrients that were taken away. While economic realities will force livestock production to specialize in order to make use of efficient technologies, livestock production needs to be brought back to rural areas. Clearly, urban livestock production which we see mushrooming, particularly in the fast developing countries, is not sustainable in the long run. Institutional and infrastructure development, together with a higher appreciation of environmental values vis-à-vis food commodities, will mean that agriculture in the future will look like a large mixed farm composed of specialized entreprises.

For millions of smallholder farmers, animal draught power and nutrient recycling through manure compensate for lack of access to tractors and fertilizer.

The challenge will be to achieve higher production through intensification rather than through concentration.

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