Reinvigorating animal agricultural research is essential to sustainably address the global challenge of food security1. The demand for food from animal agriculture is anticipated to nearly double by 2050. Increased demand is due, in part, to a predicted increase in world population from 7.2 billion to between 9 and 10 billion people in 2050 (United Nations, 2013). The increase in population puts additional pressure on the availability of land, water, and energy needed for animal and crop agriculture. During this period, it is also anticipated that there will be
1 When using the term animal agriculture the committee is referring to livestock, poultry, and aquaculture in total. Livestock includes cattle, sheep, horses, goats, and other domestic animals ordinarily raised or used on the farm. Domesticated fowl are considered poultry and not livestock (29 CFR § 780.328). Aquaculture, also known as fish or shellfish farming, refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean (NOAA, 2014). The committee uses the term animal sciences to refer to all disciplines currently contributing to animal food production systems. These disciplines are generally housed in departments focused on conventional animal sciences, animal husbandry, food sciences, dairy husbandry, poultry husbandry, veterinary science, veterinary medicine, and agricultural economics. As defined by the 1996 World Food Summit, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (FAO, 1996).
significant growth in per capita animal meat consumption related to increasing urbanization and income in developing countries. Global environmental challenges, including global climate change, and the growing threat of disease transmission to and from agricultural animals add further challenges to sustainably meeting the demand for animal agriculture in 2050. Even in a stable world, the animal agricultural research enterprise would be significantly challenged to help rectify the current unequal distribution of animal calories and the need to integrate social science research so as to better understand and respond to changing consumer preferences. Furthermore, a vibrant animal research enterprise will be central to an effective response to potential threats to animal agriculture to ensure global food security (Box 1-1 provides a brief summary of challenges facing sustainable animal agriculture described in this chapter and throughout the report). Without additional investment, the current U.S. animal agricultural research enterprise will have difficulty meeting the expected demand for animal food products in 2050.
Selected Challenges to Meeting Sustainable Animal Agriculture by 2050
- Growth in demand for animal protein due to:
- Population growth
- Increasing global affluence
- Increase in per capita animal protein intake
- Impact of global environmental change on:
- Animal feedstocks
- Water and land scarcity
- Changes in consumer preferences
- Changes in national and international regulatory requirements reflecting public concerns about animal agriculture practices
- Role of trade barriers and other governmental actions on animal agriculture in different regions of the world
- Health considerations, such as emerging infectious diseases and foodborne pathogens
- Lack of research funding in the future
Animal protein currently provides 13 percent of the calories produced globally from agriculture and represents 26 percent of the world’s dietary protein (Fraser, 2014). In the United States, 133.9 lbs of animal protein were consumed in 2012, and animal products accounted for over half of the value of agricultural production (USDA ERS, 2014)2. Animal protein continues to be a significant part of the American diet, with more than 37 million tons of meat consumed annually (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). In the United States alone, animal products account for over half of the value of agricultural products (USDA, 2014b). The United States has the largest fed-cattle industry in the world and is the world’s largest producer of high-quality3, grain-fed beef. The farm value of milk production in the United States is second only to beef among food animal industries and equal to corn. The U.S. swine industry has seen a rapid shift to fewer and larger operations associated with technological change and an evolving industry structure that has led to pork production accounting for about 10 percent of the world’s supply and the United States becoming the largest pork exporter in 2005 (America’s Pork Checkoff, 2009). The U.S. poultry industry is the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of poultry meat, and is a major egg producer. Poultry products will continue to increase the amount and share of the animal protein market desired by the American consumer as well as the export market (USDA, 2014b). In 2014, the value of U.S. food animal production was projected to be about $185 billion and the value of crop production projected to be $195 billion, representing 42 and 44 percent, respectively, of the total agricultural sector value (USDA ERS, 2014). The United States, however, is allocating less than 0.20 percent, including both National Institute of Food and Agriculture and USDA Agricultural Research Service appropriations, of the U.S. food animal production value back into publicly funded animal science research.
Worldwide, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that there will be a 73 percent increase in meat and egg consumption and a 58 percent increase in dairy consumption over 2011 levels by the year 2050 (McLeod, 2011). This increase will not be evenly distributed,
2 Animal protein in this context is defined as red and white meat including poultry, dairy and its products, eggs and their products, and all fish and shellfish.
3 The committee defines high-quality meat in terms of providing protein and caloric value. The committee recognizes that the organoleptic properties of meat may lead to overeating, obesity, and attendant diseases, but discussing these factors is beyond the charge to the committee.
however; models indicate that between 2000 and 2050, North America and Europe will see little growth in animal protein consumption, whereas consumption in Asia and Africa will more than double. Food animal consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean will also increase significantly (Rosegrant et al., 2009). Governments are grappling with how to address this increased demand, particularly given finite natural resources.
Aquaculture also critically contributes to the world’s food supply, and demand continues to increase as incomes rise. The FAO reports that over the past five decades, the world fish food supply has outpaced global population growth and has come to constitute an important source of nutritious food and animal protein for much of the world’s population (FAO, 2014). Of particular note is the growth in global trade in fishery products. According to the FAO, developing economies, whose exports represented just 34 percent of world trade in 1982, saw their share rise to 54 percent of total fishery export value by 2012 (FAO, 2014). For many developing nations, fish trade represents a significant source of foreign currency earnings in addition to its important role in income generation, employment, food security, and nutrition. Aquaculture’s important role as the fastest growing food production sector in the world to complement other animal agricultural production sectors. Globally, the specific growth rate of aquaculture since its emergence about 60 years ago is approximately 7.4 percent, whereas all other livestock has averaged about 2.6 percent during that same period. The virtually untapped oceanic shelf resources offer possibilities that are not available for the terrestrial-based animal agriculture. Only about 0.05 percent of the available shelf area is currently used for farming, and adverse environmental impacts associated with mariculture are less than the terrestrial-based counterparts. Also, because of its infancy, it has had to address unique issues that are specific to its rapid growth. The feed efficiency of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks is a unique attribute that is a very important contributor to sustainable intensification. The FAO also reports that developed countries continue to dominate world imports of fish and fishery products, although their share has decreased in recent years.
Although investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) continues to be one of the most productive investments, with rates of return between 30 and 75 percent, it has been neglected, particularly in low-income countries (FAO, 2009a). The remarkable advances in animal agriculture in recent years have been a result of R&D
and the adoption of new technologies, particularly in areas such as food safety, genetics and breeding, reproductive efficiencies, nutrition, and disease control (Roberts et al., 2009). These have led to major productivity gains in various species.
Animal science research has improved animal productivity and thus decreased the costs of animal products to consumers, increased food safety and food security, decreased environmental impacts of livestock and poultry production, and addressed public concerns about animal welfare.
Despite the demonstrated importance of animal agricultural research to current global food security, the field faces several significant impediments that limit the ability to sustainably increase productivity to meet future global demand. Recognizing this gap between the animal agricultural research enterprise and the challenges related to global food security, the National Research Council (NRC) convened an ad hoc committee of experts to prepare a report that identifies critical areas of R&D, technologies, and resource needs for research in the field of animal agriculture, both nationally and internationally. Specifically, the committee was tasked to prepare a report to identify critical areas of R&D, technologies, and resource needs for research in the field of animal agriculture nationally and internationally. Specifically, the committee was asked to assess global demand for products of animal origin in 2050 within the framework of ensuring global food security; evaluate how climate change and limited natural resources may impact the ability to meet future global demand for animal products in sustainable production systems, including typical conventional, alternative, and evolving animal production systems in the United States and internationally; and identify factors that may affect the ability of the United States to meet demand for animal products, including the need for trained human capital, product safety and quality, effective communication, and adoption of new knowledge, information and technologies. The committee was also tasked with identifying the needs for human capital development, technology transfer, and information systems for emerging and evolving animal production systems in developing countries; identifying the resources needed to develop and disseminate this knowledge and these technologies; and describing the evolution of sustainable animal production systems relevant to production and production efficiency metrics in the United States and in developing countries.
The committee’s task was based upon three underlying assumptions which the committee did not reexamine in depth. First, global animal protein consumption will continue to increase based on population growth and increased per capita animal protein consumption. There is a wealth of literature to support this assumption, some of which is cited above. Second, restricted resources (e.g., water, land, energy, and capital) and global environmental change will drive complex agricultural decisions that affect research needs. Third, current and foreseeable rapid advances in basic biological sciences provide an unparalleled opportunity to maximize the yield of investments in animal science R&D (Figure 1-1; Research, Education and Economics Task Force, 2004). The committee was tasked with identifying the research needed to achieve the goal of providing adequate, safe, and affordable nutritious food to the global population, taking into account critical issues such as public understanding and values, food safety, poverty, trade barriers, socioeconomic dynamics, and health and nutrition. This report is a result of the committee’s deliberations based on these assumptions and contributing factors. The committee’s goal was to identify where research should focus so that “sustainable intensification” can be achieved and the protein needs of the projected global population in 2050 can be met. The success of intensive sustainable aquaculture is based on increasing production while simultaneously minimizing/eliminating negative impacts on the environment. The committee, therefore, has recommended critical areas of research based on the quantitative reduction of impacts such as carbon footprint and waste. The recommendations provided should guide agencies in the establishment of research priorities (targets) that have quantitative-based goals in mind.
The committee operated under a fast-track approach that began in March 2014 and concluded with the submission of the revised report in November 2014. This approach constrained deliberations to those areas clearly within the boundaries of the task; however, the report presents many areas that can be expanded upon and advanced in future deliberations on the subject of animal agricultural research needs. The committee recognizes that it is not unusual for an NRC committee charged with evaluating research to find that the area has been relatively underfunded. Accordingly, the committee went out of its way to develop analyses that evaluated this contention, which are detailed in Chapter 5.
FIGURE 1-1 Overview of inputs affecting animal agricultural needs.
SOURCE: Committee generated.
The committee held meetings in March, May, July, and September 2014. Data-gathering sessions that were open to the public were held during both the March and May meetings. The July meeting was a week-long intensive session, which included extensive reviews of relevant literature, deliberation, and drafting of report text; the September meeting was a closed writing session. During the March meeting, the committee heard from each of the study sponsors: the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Board, Tyson Foods, Inc., the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. The committee also heard from various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), industry, and federal agencies providing their perspectives on the need for animal science research. Presenters at the May meeting represented academia, NGOs, and federal agencies, and addressed such topics as ethical considerations in animal science research, sustainable aquaculture, funding equity for the field, and the impact of climate change on animal agriculture. The committee reviewed
and built upon a large body of written material on animal science issues, including literature that informed the committee on research needs for the field. The available data included other NRC reports, FAO reports, published research articles, and both U.S. and international governmental reports. The committee also reviewed many other documents related to USDA’s budget and activities.
The committee recognizes that there are public organizations and literature advocating for reducing and/or eliminating the amount of animal protein in our diets with the rationale that this would improve our health and well-being and reduce the impact of these agricultural systems on the environment (e.g., a meatless Monday campaign has gained support from many governmental and nonprofit organizations [Righter, 2012]). The committee does not, however, address these issues because it was specifically tasked with identifying research needs for animal agriculture in light of the projected global increase in human consumption of animal protein. The committee notes that under any scenario, there is value to R&D that improves the efficiency of animal protein production.
The committee discussed at length the charge given to it within the context of the expertise of its membership and time constraints regarding the delivery of the report. The critical needs for research in animal agriculture are expansive and go well beyond the focus of this report. The committee adhered to its main charge, which was to consider meeting the animal product demands for 2050 in a sustainable way across different production systems with strong consideration of trained human capital, product safety, and effective technologies. We interpreted the charge to focus on production rather than, for example, the ethical goal of food equity. Nevertheless, the report points to nonproduction issues throughout.
The committee’s task was not to set out research directions for studies on the social and policy effects of animal food production per se, but to make recommendations specifically for animal science research. Also, the expertise of the committee members did not allow for specific recommendations to be made about the highest-priority social sciences research topics.
In considering the charge to discuss global issues in animal agriculture, the committee noted that there is marked variability among and within different countries in their animal agricultural practices and needs, and much overlap with research needs in the United States. These reflect a variety of factors including climate, soil characteristics, and
cultural practices. Prominent issues in the United States are overconsumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whereas in developing countries, public health issues, food security, undernutrition, and adaptation to climate change take priority. For perhaps a billion people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and other developing areas, the raising of food animals fulfills a social need beyond the provision of food (Herrero and Thornton, 2013; Herrero et al., 2013a). In the United States, there exists a wide range of agricultural systems that reflect geographical as well as cultural factors related to the different groups of immigrants who settled in different parts of the country.
Many agrarian societies are rapidly being affected by globalization of food supplies and urbanization, which are trends that are anticipated to continue. Some countries, such as Brazil, have rapidly emerging economies characterized by great increases in agricultural productivity that match or exceed that of the United States or Europe. Accordingly, the traditional distinction between developed and developing countries is overly simplistic. In this report, the committee provides a brief overview of the extensive variability in animal agriculture among developed and developing countries and individual countries. This provides a basis for discussion of research and general needs for human capital development, technology transfer, and information systems. The committee does not go into details for each country or region beyond the United States.
The committee believes that the developed and non-developed dichotomy is not as useful as in the past. Gradations of economies exist that cloud the distinction and possible generalities for either type. In terms of animal agriculture in particular, sharp distinctions are difficult. For example, Brazil is now the global leader in soybean production by which it has expanded its cattle industry. Argentina has similarly expanded its cattle industry, and India is now expected to be the world’s leader in dairy production.
Finally, in considering rural land use, the committee recognizes that to some extent the United States and developing countries are going in opposite directions. The United States is characterized by loss of agricultural land to urban sprawl. The U.S. population is moving from inner cities to suburbs in which people live in individual homes on quarter-acre plots and in which farms are converted into shopping malls and schools with large asphalt parking areas. In contrast, the developing world continues to be characterized by urbanization caused by the move of rural subsistence agricultural workers to cities. This difference is
accentuated by the shift in the United States from an economy based on factories, which requires large numbers of workers to be concentrated in a specific area, to a knowledge-based economy in which productive labor can use modern Internet-based technology with less need to congregate in central locations. Europe differs from the United States by having stronger rules to protect its farmland from encroachment by cities, which is an approach buttressed by trade barriers to protect otherwise marginal agricultural producers.
In this introductory chapter, the committee explores the role of research in understanding and meeting global food demand, and broadly discusses the role of sustainability and of systems approaches in considering animal science research needs. Major uncertainties, potential opportunities, and likely hindrances related to research needs for animal agriculture are briefly reviewed. Further chapters expand on these subjects.
Sustainability has progressed from a goal first enunciated in the 1980s in the landmark report Our Common Future (WCED, 1987) to specific actionable frameworks that can be used to guide decision making (NRC, 2011, 2013; see also Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture4 and Sustainability Consortium5). It is interpreted variously by different research communities. The 1987 “Bruntland Report” focuses on sustainable development and defines it as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED, 1987). This definition mirrors that of the 1969 U.S. National Environmental Policy Act, which described the need to “create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations” (42 U.S.C. § 4331(a)). That policy expresses what is now described as sustainability, and has been cited previously in NRC reports (NRC, 2011, 2013). With the emergence of earth system, ecosystem, and natural capital research, the role of the environment in the sustainability concept was enlarged to include the provisioning of humankind without threatening the functioning of the earth system, in which “provisioning humankind”
includes socioeconomic development, akin to the Bruntland report (NRC, 1999; Kates et al., 2001). The key shift, therefore, is the maintenance of functioning ecosystems, landscapes, and the earth system to provide the environmental services that nature provides and humankind wants.
Agricultural sustainability, a focus of this report, is defined by the NRC (2010) as having four generally agreed-upon goals consistent with the visions of sustainability as noted above:
- Satisfy human food, feed and fiber needs, and contribute to biofuel needs.
- Enhance environmental quality and the resource base.
- Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.
- Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers, and society as a whole.
Sustainability is best evaluated not as a particular end state, but as a process that moves farming systems along a trajectory toward greater sustainability on each of the four goals.
Davidson (2002) similarly notes that “agriculture must be internally sustainable, externally sustainable, and also serve as a resource that is available to support other sectors of the economy and society. A system that pays heed to each of these three areas is likely to be able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Internal sustainability refers to preserving the agricultural resource base, including avoiding degradation of soil and water. It includes responding to the threats of animal diseases, the usual vagaries of climate and market forces, and loss of land and water to nonagricultural uses. Also included is the maintenance of the human capital necessary to sustain agricultural communities through succeeding generations. External sustainability refers to avoiding the externalities of agricultural production imposed on other natural resources and the environment and on the nonagricultural society. Responsive sustainability requires agriculture to be sufficiently vibrant and resilient in the face of crises and opportunities in other sectors of the economy, including global climate change. This third heading of responsive sustainability requires that agriculture, including animal production systems, must be sufficiently dynamic and flexible to respond to crises in other societal sectors.
By definition, sustainability is forward looking and addresses intergenerational and longer timescales in research and planning that operate at the ecosystem level, whereby imbalances are avoided or
minimized. Under sustainable practices, the impacts of animal agriculture positively contribute to the provision of ecosystem services. These timescales and the range of factors considered—economic, social, and environmental—in sustainability approaches raise a series of issues about appropriate metrics for gauging and comparing animal agricultural productivity, which are considered in depth in Chapter 3. Sustainability also has implications across geographical areas, which can differ depending upon social and environmental issues. Approaches that can increase local sustainability may have adverse impacts on the region, and effective approaches to regional sustainability may have adverse global impacts.
An important issue in considering challenges to sustainability is the dynamic interrelation between various seemingly disparate actions. In Box 1-2, the committee describes the documented impact of overfishing off of the west coast of Africa, leading to a price increase for fish in the local market and ultimately to an increase in bushmeat hunting. This had an impact on biodiversity, endangered species, and a wide variety of processes pertinent to human health and sustainability.
Broad Implications of Animal Protein Availability:
Impact on Endangered Species and Bushmeat Hunting
Overfishing off the west coast of Africa leading to price increases for fish in local markets has been causally associated with an increase in bushmeat hunting (Brashares et al., 2004). Concerns include loss of tropical biodiversity (Waite, 2007), an increased likelihood of the spread of existing or emerging infectious diseases to humans, particularly simian viruses (Wolfe et al., 2004), and a possible climate threat due to the loss of carbon storage from large trees whose seeds are usually spread by large-bodied vertebrates (Brodie and Gibbs, 2009). This is further evidence that the demand for animal protein is leading to the loss of wild animals, a process known as defaunation (Dirzo et al., 2014). The role that bushmeat may have played in the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa can be found in Box 4-6.
Whatever the definition, and however applied to animal agriculture, a key to ensuring a sustainable food system is a holistic systems approach (Chapter 3). Holistic systems approaches have become more important as the planet’s resources necessary to sustain an increasing population are increasingly connected and are further being challenged
by global environmental changes. Below is a summary of the sustainability challenges facing the field of animal agriculture in the context of meeting global food security challenges and the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, economic, and social).
Environmental Considerations for Animal Agriculture
If the natural ecosystem is defined as one that is unaffected by humans, then agriculture is inherently disruptive. Livestock is the largest land-use sector on Earth, occupying 30 percent of the Earth’s ice-free surface (Steinfeld et al., 2006; Reid et al., 2008). According to Steinfeld (2014), 50 percent of the arable land in industrialized countries is used to grow animal feed. Livestock utilizes one-third of global cropland for animal feed production, is responsible for 72 percent of deforestation, and as a sector consumes 32 percent of global freshwater (Herrero, 2014). The water used by the livestock sector is over 8 percent of global human water use (Steinfeld et al., 2006). Given this context, the increased demand for animal protein has important implications for natural resources.
Animal agriculture also has implications for global environmental change, which refers to the totality of changes, both natural and anthropogenic in origin, under way in the earth system, from ecosystems to climate change. Animal agriculture affects these changes, in some cases significantly, and must adapt to them in order to provide the quantity and affordability level of animal products expected by society. For example, animal agriculture is responsible for about 14.5 percent of global GHG emissions, according to the FAO (Gerber et al., 2013). Major contributors are nitrous oxide (N2O) from manure storage and application (25 percent), carbon dioxide (CO2) from deforestation (34 percent), and methane (CH4) from enteric fermentation of ruminants (26 percent). The 2.7 billion tons of CO2 from animal agriculture is equivalent to “9 percent of all global anthropogenic CO2 emissions; the 2.2 billion tons of CH4 emissions from animal agriculture represent 37 percent of global anthropogenic CH4 emissions; and the 2.2 billion tons of N2O emissions comprise 65 percent of total global anthropogenic N2O emissions” (Steinfeld, 2014). There are also significant variations in the emissions from different species; these differences are further pronounced when comparing developed and developing nations (de Vries and de Boer, 2010). FAO reported in 2011 that 44 percent of agriculture-related GHG outputs occurred in Asia, 25 percent in the
Americas, 15 percent in Africa, 12 percent in Europe, and 4 percent in Oceania (Tubiello et al., 2014). The environmental and resource impact of animal agriculture has long-run economic implications all along the animal supply chain from producers to animal product consumers. Economic modeling of this impact can inform decision-makers about the needed technical and policy responses. For example, reducing the GHG emissions of beef cattle through investments in technology could improve not only the bottom line of the rancher, but also the whole economic sustainability of the industry.
The lower global climate change footprint of U.S. animal agriculture compared to historic conditions is related to the intensification of animal agriculture (Chapter 3)6. Briefly, as detailed below, the ability to concentrate animal agriculture and to enhance productivity has been made feasible by public-funded and industry-funded research, ranging from enhancing the birth number and health of young animals to improvements in the selection and delivery of feed. Research has also been of importance in mitigating the threats to land, water, and health caused by wastes and to other concerns, such as animal welfare associated with concentrated animal feeding operations; however, these issues persist and are the cause of increasing consumer concerns. Because of the multiple roles of food animals in the developing world, incentives for sustainable intensification may also include minimizing the costs of animal protein production as a way to maintain an effective food animal population. Although sustainable intensification has been adopted as a policy goal for national and international institutions, it has also been subject to criticism. Box 1-3 includes areas that interface with sustainable intensification and ways that shared agendas might best be pursued (Garnett et al., 2013).
6According to the U.S. Global Climate Change Program, global change refers to “changes in the global environment that may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life. Global change encompasses climate change, but it also includes other critical drivers of environmental change that may interact with climate change, such as land use change, the alteration of the water cycle, changes in biogeochemical cycles, and biodiversity loss” (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2014).
Policy Goals Interfacing with Sustainable Intensification (SI)
Identifying the need for increased food security amid increasing global populations and wealth, Garnett et al. (2013) provided a nuanced discussion of SI as a policy objective. These authors say that SI has been adopted as a policy goal by many prominent institutions, but also attracts serious criticism. They adopt a broad perspective for analysis which attempts to see how SI interfaces with other policy objectives and to what extent it represents a step toward attaining food security. They discuss the four key premises underlying SI, the first of which is the need for an increase in agricultural production, which increases yields in many low-income countries and also considers environmental sustainability. Second, because the increasing area of land used in agriculture has a negative environmental impact, this higher production must be attained through higher yields. A third premise is that food security requires altering business-as-usual practices, because environmental sustainability is as important to this goal as raising agricultural productivity. Fourth, although SI is a goal to be attained, it does not specify the means through which it can be reached. Different approaches, ranging from conventional to organic to technological, can be tested with respect to attaining SI (Garnett et al., 2013).
The authors also consider five other policy goals that must interface with SI in its implementation. The first of these is biodiversity and land use, because through land and water contamination “agriculture is a greater threat to biodiversity than any other human activity.” This speaks to the importance of exploring “land-sharing” and “land-sparing” processes that can help SI systems accommodate for the trade-offs between increased yields and environmental concerns. Accommodating animal welfare goals in limiting the negative effects (such as disease) associated with intensification policies as well as objectives for human nutrition through the food available for consumption are also identified as important considerations. Finally, accommodating economic support for rural economies and sustainable development goals, such as targeting investment in agriculture as a mechanism for economic growth and facilitating the social and production capital necessary to meet sustainability objectives, is identified as an important policy consideration when implementing SI. Garnett et al. (2013) identify SI as a “new, evolving concept,” whose “meaning and objectives [are] subject to debate and contest.” Because SI is being recommended and pursued by many groups, policy considerations such as those identified by the autors must be considered and explored as we implemtn this concept into development plans.
Despite these criticisms, given animal agriculture’s immense environmental impact amid increases in demand for animal protein, sustainable intensification has become a potential means for reaching production goals while preserving environmental quality. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argues that the sustainable intensification of agriculture can decrease GHG emissions per unit of agricultural product (IPCC, 2014), and a report by FAO has acknowledged that “intensification—in terms of increased productivity both in food animal production and in feed crop agriculture—can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and pasture degradation” (Steinfeld et al., 2006). Evidence in the study of agricultural production supports these claims, with intensification resulting in net avoided emissions of 161 gigatons of carbon between 1961 and 2005, despite increased fertilizer production and use (Burney et al., 2010). Evidence as to the environmental success of sustainable intensification has also been observed in the U.S. beef industry, with the carbon footprint per billion kilograms of beef being reduced by 16.3 percent when comparing 2007 and 1977 values (Capper, 2011). Similarly, the U.S. dairy industry has reduced feed use by 77 percent, land use by 90 percent, and water use by 65 percent, and has achieved a 63 percent decrease in GHG emissions per kilogram of milk from 1944 to 2007 (Capper et al., 2009).
Economic Considerations for Animal Agriculture
The economic importance of animal agriculture cannot be overstated. This sector contributes 40 percent of the global value of agricultural output and supports the livelihoods and food security of almost a billion people (FAO, 2009b). It represents 1.5 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP), and in industrialized countries livestock production comprises more than half of the agriculture-related GDP (Herrero et al., 2013b). This sector has approximately $1.4 trillion in assets and employs 1.3 billion people, including from 400 million to over 700 million of the world’s poor who rely on animals for meat, milk, and fertilizer (Herrero et al., 2013a). In the United States, the annual economic value of livestock and poultry sales exceeds $183 billion (USDA ERS, 2014). In the European Union, the livestock sector contributes about 130 billion euros annually to the European economy (Animal Task Force, 2013).
Animal protein production is expected to grow from 2014 to 2023, albeit at a slower rate of 1.6 percent per year, compared to the previous
decade (OECD-FAO, 2014). Demand for meat of all types is expected to increase by 53 million tons over this time period, with 58 percent of this increase coming from the Asia and Pacific region, and 18 percent from Latin America and the Caribbean contributing. The developed countries of North America and Europe are expected to contribute 15 percent to this growth, and Africa is projected to contribute 7 percent. Meat trade is projected to grow slower than in the past decade, and in global terms just over 11 percent of meat output will be traded. The most significant import demand growth originates from Asia, which represents the greatest share of additional imports for all meat types (OECD-FAO, 2014). By the end of this decade, poultry meat production is projected to overtake pork production, making poultry the number one animal protein source globally.
America’s freshwater and marine aquaculture industry meets only 5 to 7 percent of U.S. demand for seafood (NOAA, 2012). Products of marine aquaculture in the United States represent 10 percent of the total domestic production (206,767 tonnes). In 2012, the U.S. seafood trade deficit surpassed $10 billion for the first time (NOAA, 2012) with the United States being the second highest importer of seafood in the world with a mean annual increase of 5.1 percent from 2002 to 2012. In 2013, the total value of aquaculture sales from U.S. production was $1.37 billion, up from $1.09 billion in 2005, (USDA, 2014a), a 25.7 percent increase. This most recent value of U.S.-produced food fish (fish, crustaceans, and mollusks) is approximately 1 percent of the total value globally ($137.7 billion). Key findings from an OECD-FAO (2014) report projecting global meat consumption and production growth can be found in Box 1-4 (excluding aquaculture). Global aggregate production and demand for meat products (excluding aquaculture) can be found in Table 1-1.
Key Findings from OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook (2014):
Animal Agriculture from 2014 to 2023
- “Nominal meat prices are expected to remain high throughout the outlook period. Animal feed costs remain above historic norms and rising costs related to other inputs such as energy, labor, water and land will also support higher prices. In real terms, however, meat prices have already, or will soon, peak, and will decline moderately by 2023.”
- “Global meat production is projected to rise by 1.6 percent annually over the Outlook period, down from 2.3 percent in the last ten years. Driven largely by demand preferences, poultry meat will become the largest meat sector by 2020. Over the projection period poultry meat production will capture almost half of the increase in global meat production by 2023, compared to the base period.”
- “Global meat consumption per capita is expected to reach 36.3 kg in retail weight by 2023, an increase of 2.4 kg compared to the base period. This additional consumption will mostly (72 percent) consist of poultry, followed by pig, sheep and bovine meat. Consumption growth in developed countries will be slower than that of the developing countries, but in absolute terms, at 69 kg per capita, will remain more than double that in developing countries by the end of the projection period.”
- “Meat trade is projected to grow slower than in the past decade and in global terms just over 10.6 percent of meat output will be traded. The most significant import demand growth originates from Asia, which represents the greatest share of additional imports for all meat types.”
TABLE 1-1 Past and Future Aggregate Production and Consumption for Meat Products.
|1,000 tonnes||Annual Growth Rates, %||1,000 tonnes||Annual Growth Rates, %|
|1,000 tonnes||Annual Growth Rates, %||1,000 tonnes||Annual Growth Rates, %|
|Total meat by region|
|Near East/North Africa||8,918||4.5||3.9||2.4||2.2||10,292||4.3||3.7||2.7||2.3|
|Latin America and Caribbean||40,585||3.7||4.5||1.7||1.3||34,557||3.8||3.6||1.7||1.3|
SOURCE: Alexandratos and Bruinsma (2012). Reprinted with permission of FAO.
Social Considerations for Animal Agriculture
It is becoming increasingly apparent that for research advances in animal productivity to be useful, consideration must be given to the social norms of the communities and countries in which they are to be applied. Studies have indicated that there are a host of issues beyond food safety and quality that influence the acceptability, and hence the
sustainability, of existing and new animal agricultural practices. These factors include environmental, economic, and social concerns (NRC, 2010), with the latter playing an increasingly important role not only with respect to the regulatory decision-making process, but in terms of shaping consumer and supply-chain purchasing decisions in many countries (Mench, 2008; Matthews and Hemsworth, 2012). Social concerns include those related to animal welfare, equity (e.g., fair labor practices, including agricultural worker health and safety and protection of vulnerable human populations and rural communities), corporate social responsibility and business ethics, food security, agricultural and food traditions, naturalness of food products, and the use of biotechnology in food production (NRC, 2010; Anthony, 2012; Niles, 2013; Lister et al., 2014).
Many animal agricultural issues also interface with human health, starting with sufficient availability to avoid famine and undernutrition to concerns about overconsumption and the relationship of eating meat to diseases prevalent in both the developed and developing world (Keats and Wiggins, 2014). Disease transmission from animals to humans is another main issue of interest to human health. Outcomes of research relating micronutrient intake to positive and negative effects on human health may guide breeding practices, including genetic modification of animals to achieve dietary goals (e.g., lower-cholesterol eggs). An issue particularly worthy of additional research is improving response to the development of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms that threaten human and animal health.
Animal agricultural productivity also depends upon the health of the agriculture workforce. Agriculture has historically been a dangerous trade and remains so today (OSHA, 2014). U.S. agricultural workers have seven times the annual death rate of the average U.S. workforce (24.9 vs. 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people). This does not include commercial fishery workers who are at the highest fatality risk of almost any industry (126 deaths per 100,000 people). Animal production agricultural workers’ injury rate (6.7 per 100 people) was higher than that of crop production workers (5.5 per 100 people) (OSHA, 2014). Globally, agricultural worker health risks are often compounded by the lack of technology to replace unsafe practices, the lack of personal protective equipment, and the frequency of child labor. Research on the issue of worker health is usually the province of health agencies and is divorced from standard agricultural research funding considerations. In the United States, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and
Health funds programs related to agricultural worker health. The National Institutes of Health Fogarty Center has funded global agricultural health programs pairing U.S. academic programs with developing countries, in part to train future researchers.
The Millennium Development Goals are particularly valuable in providing metrics that permit measurement of outcomes whereby assessment of impacts on human nutrition, poverty, health, and overall socioeconomic welfare at the community and household levels can be confidently assessed. Related to animal health and agriculture, 13 zoonoses are responsible for a staggering 2.2 billion human illnesses and 2.3 million deaths per year, mostly in low-income and middle-income countries. Of the post-2015 development goals, several proposed goals include elimination of extreme poverty and sustainable social, economic, and environmental development (Kelly et al., 2014).
Advances in animal agriculture have been a result of R&D and new technologies, particularly in areas such as food safety, genetics and breeding, reproductive efficiencies, nutrition, disease control, biotechnology, and the environment (Roberts et al., 2009). Major productivity gains in various species are also attributed to R&D in this field. Developments in reproductive technologies will continue to allow acceleration of genetic selection (Hume et al., 2011). The neglect of investment in animal agriculture documented by the committee in Chapter 5 runs contrary to the significant economic value and high rate of return of this sector to the United States and globally. The committee recognizes that there are various sources of funding for R&D in the field, including private funding, but also notes the essential role that public funding plays in addressing longer-term research needs, and particularly in supporting research that addresses public goods. The committee has therefore focused its assessment on federal sources in the United States. As such, the United States is allocating less than 0.20 percent of the U.S. agricultural value in public funding for animal science research.
Additionally, although budgets were relatively flat in terms of nominal dollars for public investment in animal science research during 2004-2012, the annual value in U.S. exports for beef increased from $0.8 to $5.5 billion (USMEF, 2012a), pork increased from $2.2 to $6.3 billion (USMEF, 2012c), lamb increased from $12.3 to $26.2 million (USMEF,
2012b), broiler exports increased from $1.8 billion (2006) to over $4 billion (2012) (USDA ERS, 2013), and dairy exports increased from $1.29 billion (2006) to $5.28 billion (2013) (U.S. Dairy Export Council, 2014). The increased value in U.S. exports demonstrates the importance of animal agriculture to the U.S. economy and the need to continue to invest in the research that has driven gains in this important industry.
The FAO stated that “the livestock sector requires renewed attention and investments from the agricultural research and development community and robust institutional and governance mechanisms that reflect the diversity within the sector…The challenges posed by the livestock sector cannot be solved by a single string of actions or by individual actors alone. They require integrated efforts by a wide range of stakeholders” (FAO, 2009b).
Impediments and Opportunities: Reinvigorating Animal Sciences Research
The committee highlights in the report the limitations to funding facing animal science research. It also identifies several other impediments to developing research that optimizes sustainable animal agriculture domestically and globally, and for which the committee based its subsequent recommendations. These include inadequate research infrastructure, including personnel, facilities and other organizational issues; political and social impediments; insufficient collaboration among government, industry, and academia, different disciplines, and basic and applied sciences and technologies; and problems in technology transfer. Although good metrics are available for quantifying research outcomes, there is a need to evolve a better process for identifying and funding future research needs. Finally, there is a lack of strategic planning for the field that cuts across the different dimensions of sustainability, considers various timescales and intergenerational issues, and carefully considers the implications of actions across local, regional, and global dimensions.
Despite these impediments, the committee notes many opportunities to improve agricultural productivity in both the United States and the developing world. These include advances in general biology pertinent to better understanding animal growth, lactation, and welfare; breeding and growth techniques; genetics, including improved growth characteristics and protection against diseases; technological advances such as minimizing animal production wastes, including recycling, improving
animal welfare, and minimizing spoilage of food (e.g., through better packaging); advances in developing research approaches that involve cooperation between scientists and multiple stakeholders, especially smallholder food animal producers; and finally advances in social sciences, such as improved communication among the public, the food animal industry, and scientists (Box 1-5).
Opportunities to Improve Research That Optimizes
Sustainable Animal Agriculture
- Advances in general biology and other basic research pertinent to understanding animal growth and welfare
- Advances in breeding and growth techniques
- Advances in nutrition and management
- Advances in genetics
- Improve growth characteristics
- Protect against diseases (e.g., reduce antibiotic use)
- Identify and select for traits in animals that increase their adaptability and resilience to climate change and variability
- Identify and select for traits in animals and in gut microbiomes that increase animal nutrient and energy utilization, and decrease nutrient excretion
- Advances in technology
- Minimize animal production wastes and improve nutrient recycling in animal and plant agriculture
- Minimize environmental and resource use footprints
- Improve animal welfare
- Protect against disease
- Minimize spoilage of food (e.g., through better packaging)
- Advances in social sciences
- Improve communication among the public, the food animal industry and scientists
- Improve understanding of the economic and social drivers that govern (impact) food animal development
- Improve understanding and development of policy tools that optimize animal food production
To keep to the statement of task, the committee had to focus on higher-level issues that were crosscutting to many developing regions of the world and presents these challenges throughout Chapter 4. The committee had to prioritize what it could address within the report and could not address all differences in trends across all different regions, trends, and species around the world. It chose to present larger regions and systems, such as increasing production in poultry across Africa and aquaculture across Asia, discussed in Chapter 4, that would have impacts across larger regions. The committee acknowledges that there are regional differences in per capita animal product consumption patterns that are important to consider; however, it was not able to discuss this in great detail.
The committee is cognizant of the inherent uncertainties in any research planning effort that attempts to look beyond a few years, let alone one that is given a target date 36 years from the present. Any such planning effort is subject to uncertainties in demand, global climate change and other environmental impacts, social and regulatory issues affecting acceptability of animal agricultural practice and consumer preferences, trade issues, and pertinent basic scientific advances. The committee’s highest confidence is in the prediction that animal agricultural productivity will be significantly impacted by at least one major factor that is not foreseen today, which itself is a reason to have available a vibrant animal agricultural research enterprise capable of responding to this unforeseen threat (Box 1-6). The remainder of the report, including the committee’s findings, recommendations, and research priorities, is the committee’s attempt to embrace the opportunities available to enhance and reinvigorate the field, while recognizing these complex uncertainties.
The remainder of the report is organized into five chapters. Chapter 2 provides a broad overview of the sustainability challenges associated with feeding a population of 10 billion people in 2050, particularly given the increased demand for animal protein. Chapter 3 discusses research needs for the field of animal agriculture from the U.S. perspective, including priorities identified by previous entities (other examples of these research priorities are included in Appendixes E-I). Chapter 4 describes research needs at the global level. In its deliberations, the
committee came to the recognition that scarcity of human resources capable of meeting the challenge was a major factor underlying all animal agricultural research planning for the future. On the basis of this finding, the committee decided to write a separate chapter that highlights this issue rather than separately consider this issue within each of the chapters. Accordingly, Chapter 5 focuses on the capacity-building and infrastructure needs for research in food security and animal sciences in the United States. Chapter 6 provides a summary of the committee’s recommendations.
Major Uncertainties in the Assessment of Research Needs and Opportunities in Sustainable Animal Agriculture for 2050
- The extent of the impact of global environmental change on animal foodstocks and habitats
- The rate of development of new scientific understanding or new technologies pertinent to animal food production research
- The impact of overlapping social movements related to animal welfare, organic foods, and vegetarianism on the consumption of animal protein
- The impact of science-based health information on consumer preferences
- The rate of population growth and of growth of per capita protein consumption, including the extent of sustainable economic development and its role in protein consumption
- The state of the economic system, including the extent of institution or removal of trade barriers and the free exchange of animal protein among countries and trading groups
- The impact of major new diseases or the spread of existing diseases on animal health
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