The case against industrial livestock production

Industrial livestock production is dependent on feeding human-edible cereals to animals. This is inefficient. For every 100 calories fed to animals in the form of cereals, just 17-30 calories are returned for human consumption as meat or milk. 

This core inefficiency brings other inefficiencies in its train. Feeding cereals to animals is a wasteful use not only of these crops but of the land, water and energy used to grow them. The need to grow huge amounts of grain to feed factory farmed animals has fuelled the intensification of crop production with its use of agro-chemicals and monocultures. Recent studies show that intensive agriculture has eroded the quality, productivity and biodiversity of UK soils. 

A new report by Compassion in World Farming “Cheap Food Costs Dear” reviews the literature that seeks to calculate the cost of the above negative externalities of industrial livestock production. The report shows that the costs of these externalities are immense. These costs, however, are not borne by the consumers of industrial animal products but by taxpayers, third parties or society as a whole. In some cases the costs are borne by no-one and key resources such as soil and biodiversity are allowed to deteriorate undermining the ability of future generations to feed themselves. 

The report argues that these externalities must be internalised if we are to develop a livestock sector that produces nutritious food, nurtures the natural resources on which farming depends and delivers high standards of animal welfare. 

Peter Stevenson (Compassion in World Farming) 
Tim Lang (City University) 
Charlie Clutterbuck


Audio recording:

Speaker presentations:

Charlie Clutterbuck – Corn-fed Cattle

Peter Stevenson (Compassion in World Farming) – Industrial Livestock Production


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