Increase your understanding of sustainable livestock production

Livestock producers and food chain specialists now have a rare opportunity to develop a more in depth understanding of how global livestock production can be made more sustainable.
calendar icon 4 August 2019
clock icon 4 minute read

Thanks to an educational initiative from The Agrifood Training Partnership (AFTP), a ‘sustainable livestock production systems’ module from the Reading University post-graduate Animal Science MSc by Research course is being made available to anyone else who wants to increase their understanding of this important topic.

Tutor, Dr Caroline Rymer says: “This course offers a new opportunity for people involved in agriculture and the food chain to access many years of research. We will cover ruminant and monogastric production systems to explore measures that could be implemented to encourage more sustainable farming practices.”

Global meat production has increased rapidly. The course will present data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation that shows how livestock production is likely to reach unsustainable levels. In 1961 global meat production totalled 71.36 million tonnes. Fifty years later this figure increased to 297.71 million tonnes and is expected to double again by 2061. The challenge now is to achieve this increase without using more land or water, without increasing the impact of livestock production on the environment, while also ensuring the welfare of the livestock is improved and economic viability of the industry maintained.

Global choice, distribution methods and food trends are key drivers in livestock production. In 1961, poultry meat accounted for only 12 percent of global meat production. In 2013 this had almost tripled to around 35 percent. In comparison, beef and buffalo meat as a share of total meat production has nearly halved, accounting for 22 percent in 2013. Pig meat has remained more constant at approximately 40 percent and is the most popular meat in the world.

Globalisation and the development of Asia’s economy has seen the region become the biggest producer of meat in the world. In 1961 Europe produced approximately three times more livestock than Asia. Data used in the course and collected in 2014 shows Asia producing 135.71 million tonnes of meat which is more than North America (46.95) and Europe (59.37) combined.

The environmental impact of such rapid growth has caused many who source and buy meat to implement policies that encourage more ethical and sustainable livestock production methods.

Expansion of livestock production is a major cause of deforestation. Agriculture uses high volumes of water and contributes to water pollution through the discharge of wastes, especially surpluses of nitrogen and phosphorus. Livestock production is also responsible for large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions.

Caroline adds: “Studying ‘Sustainable livestock production systems’ offers a unique insight into global livestock production. It will help those in a position of influence to understand how livestock are produced and promote a more sustainable approach to production and procurement.”

AFTP is backed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to offer professional development opportunities through courses offered at Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cranfield University, Harper Adams University, The University of Nottingham, and The University of Reading.

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