By 2050 an expanded world population will be consuming two thirds more animal protein than it does today, bringing new strains to bear on the planet's natural resources, according to a new FAO report.
Populations and income growth are fueling an ongoing trend towards greater per capita consumption of animal protein in developing countries, says the report, World Livestock 2011. Meat consumption is projected to rise nearly 73 percent by 2050; dairy consumption will grow 58 percent over current levels.
Much of the future demand for livestock production — in particular in the world's burgeoning cities, where most population growth is occurring — will be met by large-scale, intensive animal-rearing operations.
But such systems are a source of concern due to environmental impacts such as groundwater pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as their potential to act as incubators of diseases, warns the report, cautioning: "an urgent challenge is to make intensive production more environmentally benign."
Based on existing knowledge and technology, there are three ways to do this, according to FAO: reduce the level of pollution generated from waste and greenhouse gases; reduce the input of water and grain needed for each output of livestock protein; and recycle agro-industrial by-products through livestock populations.
Efficiency gains only way to meet demand
The surge in livestock production that took place over the last 40 years resulted largely from an increase in the overall number of animals being raised. But "it is hard to envisage meeting projected demand by keeping twice as many poultry, 80 percent more small ruminants, 50 percent more cattle and 40 percent more pigs, using the same level of natural resources as currently," says World Livestock 2011.
Rather, increases in production will need to come from improvements in the efficiency of livestock systems in converting natural resources into food and reducing waste.
This will require capital investment and a supporting policy and regulatory environment.
Livestock and food security
Since 1967, global production of poultry meat increased by around 700 percent. Other products saw surges in production as well, including eggs, which registered a 350 percent increase, pig meat (290%), sheep and goat meat (200%), beef and buffalo meat (180%) and milk (180%).
Livestock products today supply 12.9 percent of calories consumed worldwide — 20.3 percent in developed countries. Their contribution to protein consumption is estimated at 27.9 percent worldwide and 47.8 percent in developed countries.
Wednesday December 14, 2011/ FAO.