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Meeting Global Demand for More Meat

25 November 2011

As the world has welcomed its seven billionth person, the concerns of meat and food producers globally are turning to how this ever growing population is going to be fed, writes ThePigSite Editor in Chief, Chris Harris.

Speaking at the recent World Pork Conference in Bonn, Dr Henning Steinfeld from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN showed that by 2050, the world will need 50 per cent more food and between 70 and 80 per cent more meat to feed a population that is expected to grow by 30 per cent.

To produce this meat and protein, livestock at present uses 26 per cent of all land in the world for pasture, 35 per cent of all arable land to produce feed, 58 per cent biomass appropriation for food, eight per cent of the world's water and produce between 12 and 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

In return, livestock produces 13 per cent of all calories consumed, 25 per cent of the world's protein consumption and 1.5 per cent of global GDP, providing employment or a livelihood for a billion people.

However, the greatest density of meat consumption is in the USA and Australia, with heavy consumption in South America and Europe, with Spain being the greatest consumer. Southeast Asia and Africa – the poorest nations in the world – lag behind the rest of the world in meat consumption.

"The developing countries are seeing the greatest growth in pig and poultry production," said Dr Steinfeld.

He said the reason that these two sectors are growing more rapidly than other meats is largely down to cost and time. Beef is the most costly to produce and takes the most time, whereas poultry is the cheapest and fastest and pig meat is in the middle.

Dr Steinfeld said that the driving forces for a growth in meat production and consumption will not only be a growing global population, but also growth in both incomes and urban populations.

He said there will also be a shift in the pattern of supply with a shift in species used for meat production and feed resources. Meat production is also going to see a number of technical changes and market shifts. However, the main producing regions are going to remain East Asia, the EU and US and North America.

Within these production areas, there are concentrations of production. For instance, Iowa and North Carolina are the main production states for the US, but in North Carolina, 65 per cent of the production is concentrated into just five counties – largely in the coastal area.

"This sort of concentration of production starts to put pressure on other resources and this is more keenly felt in developing nations," said Dr Steinfeld.

He said that the concentration of production also means a concentration of pig waste in a small area and in the developing countries, this has become one of the greatest pollutants and a great problem.

Globally, the pig sector produces 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide- (CO2) equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 1.6 per cent of the total for the world.

He said whether pig production is in large-scale operations, medium-sized farms or the backyard sector, they all produce similar amounts of carbon dioxide-equivalent GHGs. They all also have an affect on feed and land use resources and create similar emissions through waste.

Increased planting of soybean for pig feed has an impact on deforestation as more land use is changed to increase production.

Compared with beef and dairy production, pig meat production has a lesser effect on the environment and only just higher than poultry meat production.

For developing countries, however, the greater concern is about having an adequate food supply and improving the diet of the population. This is compared to the concerns of the developed nations, which are more involved with welfare issues, food safety and health worries.

Growth in Global Meat Demand

"However, we will need 70 per cent more meat by 2050 and pork is going to be part of that story," said Dr Steinfeld.

"But it is not going to be the fastest grower. In the poorer developing countries, the need for protein will largely be met through poultry."

Dr Steinfeld said that pig meat production will also be held back to a degree through cultural concerns from some nations.

He said that large efficiency gains can be realised and sector growth can be "accommodated".

He added that there is a need to produce more pig meat products with less production of nitrogen and this will require a change in practices.

This will also need continued technological innovation and development of institutions and a large potential for the provision of environmental services for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water conservation.

"We need a global action plan to support a sustainable livestock sector. This will require a multi-state platform and we will also need greater efficiency," Dr Steinfeld concluded.

November 2011

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