Land and water are finite resources, and as the demand for foods of animal origin seem likely to increase, the efficiency of food production, the resilience of the food chain, and the role of the veterinary profession appear increasingly important. Increasing demand in China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America is causing a “livestock revolution” (Delgado, 2003) and a shift to large, intensive, livestock operations that make use of fewer people per unit of product than traditional systems of agriculture. Intensive operations are frequently associated with multinational agribusiness conglomerates and supermarket chains selling processed, frozen, packaged, and branded meat, milk, ice cream etc. (see Costales et al., 2005). Rules and standards for food quality and safety have followed, favoring the growth of supermarkets that are expanding at rates of up to 25% per year in Southeast Asia. Because these operations are efficient and generally produce food at lower prices, they are beneficial, but, as noted earlier, generally not accessible to those who live in slums. They also marginalize small producers who are unable to compete in the supply and sales to supermarkets, but farm hillside and other difficult lands that are essential to food security in the world. If the efficiency and productivity of smallholders could be increased, they could be integrated into food supply chains.
Increases in affluence and demand for animal protein have already taken place in cities of Southeast Asia (Delgado et al., 1999; Delgado, 2003) and in the coming decades demand is expected to further increase at least two to three fold over consumption in rural households (Pingali, 1997; Delgado, 2003; Steinfeld, 2005). Milk sales in China demonstrate the effects of urbanization on consumption. Between 1997 and 2002, urban milk consumption in China increased by an average of 25% per year facilitated by increased spendable income and the availability of refrigeration, supermarkets, western-style restaurant chains, and ice cream parlors. By contrast, consumption of dairy products among rural communities changed little (Figure 8-1).
FIGURE 8-1 Urban and rural fresh dairy product consumption. SOURCE: Fuller and Beghin, 2004.