Maintaining Welfare Standards in a Food Hungry World

UK - Discussing how we can maintain animal welfare standards whilst producing food for a growing human population was the theme of a paper presented by Professor Natalie Waran, Jeanne Marchig Professor of Animal Welfare, at the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) Conference in Nottingham, writes Lucy Towers, ThePoultrySite Newsdesk Assistant.
calendar icon 2 May 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

The world's population is predicted to increase to around nine billion by 2050, with the largest proportion of this growth to be in developing countries. Food production is therefore expected to rise by 50 to 70 per cent to meet the demand.

In her paper, Professor Waran from the University of Edinburgh discussed how the issue of maintaining animal welfare standards and feeding the world is a tricky situation; in most cases mass production is used to increase output but in the case of animal products this may lead to poorer welfare standards, making the situation a conflicting issue.

As part of her approach to the issue, she stated that welfare should mean good production from the animal, behaviour and health and fitness.

In order to deal with the issue, Professor Waran looked at the four R's; Reduction, Refinement, Replacement and Responsibility.


One way that welfare can be maintained while people are fed is to reduce to amount of meat we consume. On average, an American eats 330g of meat per day, well above the recommended limit of 90g. Another way is to reduce the wastage. With the consumer market demanding only the best looking produce, one–third of food produced in the world is wasted each year.


Moving to intensive production is another way to meet demand but welfare groups often criticise such systems, alleging they lead to poor animal welfare and the over-dependence on antibiotics. However, intensive farming does have the potential to be improved, especially in developing countries where this could provide them with a more secure food source.


In recent years there has been a move towards in vitro meat production, where meat is grown in vats. Although this would provide sterile and healthy meat, what would happen to the role of farmers? If this source of food were to be accepted by consumers there would most likely be a decline in the need for farms.


Overall, it can be seen that education is needed politically, corporately and personally if this issue is to be solved, according to Professor Waran.

It is possible that the two sides of the issue can be met, but it will require heavy investment and knowledge transfer.

The banning of colony cages by the EU and the lack of preparation of farmers, despite the prior warning, demonstrates how answers to the issue must start to be developed now if they are to be implemented effectively, concluded Professor Waran.

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