lons) per acre. Expressed another way, using the 2003 USDA/ERS figure of 177 lbs of whole and reduced fat milk consumption per person in the United States, one cow in 1950 could meet the needs of 30 people. By 2010, yields per cow had increased to 21,500 lbs, equaling 15,357 lbs of milk (1,919 gallons) per acre and a four-fold increase compared to 1950. At this level of production, one cow can meet the needs of 121 people with less land, less feed, and less manure per gallon than in 1950.

Similarly, although global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and is projected to double present levels by 2050, increases to date have come primarily from increased numbers of animals rather than improved livestock yields (Pingali, 1997; Delgado, 2003; Steinfeld, 2005; and Steinfeld et al., 2008). For example, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, two of the poorest countries on earth, increased their cattle populations several hundredfold between 1961 and 2007, but with no improvement in carcass yields throughout the period (FAO, 2009). Maintaining such large numbers of animals with low productivity is not only inefficient, it also leads to exploitation of more land, soil stress through overgrazing and erosion, and is not sustainable.

A more efficient and environmentally-sustainable approach to increasing food production is to redirect output towards fewer, higher-yielding animals (Burney et al., 2010; Capper et al., 2010). In countries where available land is in short supply, there are few alternatives but to intensify animal production. Faced with meteoric urban population growth and with 94% of the suitable land already under cultivation, China and countries of South Asia have shifted towards large, intensive systems of swine, poultry, and dairy production, accounting for roughly 80% of the total increase of Asian livestock products since 1990 (Delgado, 2003). The veterinary profession has an opportunity to help improve the efficiency of these operations and also ensure that animal welfare needs are addressed. Large-scale operations have the added advantage that they generally favor the introduction of new technologies and better management practices, factors that result in lower food prices, improved feed conversion and yields per animal, meaning fewer animals are required to meet demand.

TABLE 8-1 Past and Projected Trends of Consumption of Livestock Products

Developing World Developed World
1980 2030 Percent increase 1980 2030 Percent increase
Total meat consumption (million tonnes) 47 252 437 86 121 41
Total milk consumption (million tonnes) 114 452 297 228 284 25

Adapted from Steinfeld et al., 2006, and FAO, 2006.

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