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close this bookLivestock to 2020 - The Next Food Revolution. 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment. Discussion Paper 28. (IFPRI, 1999, 79 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the document1. The Livestock Revolution
View the document2. Recent Transformation of Livestock Food Demand
View the document3. Accompanying Transformation of Livestock Supply
View the document4. Projections of Future Demand and Supply to 2020
View the document5. Implications of the Livestock Revolution for World Trade and Food Prices
View the document6. Nutrition, Food Security, and Poverty Alleviation
View the document7. Environmental Sustainability
View the document8. Public Health
View the document9. Technology Needs and Prospects
View the document10. Taking Stock and Moving Forward
View the documentAppendix: Regional Classification of Countries Used in this Paper
View the documentReferences
View the documentRecent Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Papers

6. Nutrition, Food Security, and Poverty Alleviation

The trends noted in the previous chapters strongly suggest that livestock consumption patterns in developing countries are rapidly converging with those in developed countries, putting severe pressure on production systems in developing countries to do the same. The considerable controversy in both the popular and scientific literature about the desirability of livestock consumption and production patterns in the richer countries raises concerns about what the Livestock Revolution portends for human welfare in the poorer countries. It seems probable, for example, that massively larger amounts of cereals will be used as feed to produce items consumed primarily by better-off urban people in countries where outright lack of food is still common (Brown and Kane 1994; Goodland 1997; Pimentel 1997).

These concerns raise complex nutritional, food security, and poverty alleviation issues. Nutritional issues in this context include the effect of consumption of specific animal food products on health and well-being in specific situations. Food security issues encompass the ability of people to secure enough food on a regular basis for healthy and productive lives. Poverty alleviation issues include the extent to which the production and sale of animal products might lead to widespread net improvement in the livelihood of the rural poor.

The IMPACT projections shed light on likely trends in cereal and animal product prices under different scenarios for the Livestock Revolution. The impact of livestock on the purchasing power of the poor, the other side of the cereal affordability issue, must be assessed with highly disaggregated data. As will be seen below, evidence from household studies around the developing world suggests that in many cases the rural poor, especially women, get a larger share of their income from livestock sources than do the relatively wealthy. These findings raise questions about the morality of blanket “anti-livestock” positions in policymaking. But whether the traditional livestock enterprises of the rural poor can coexist with increased industrialization of livestock production is an open question. Finally, increasing intensification of production raises other ethical issues, including concerns about animal welfare and the unpleasantness suffered by those who live downwind from major industrial hog farms.

As with other structural changes in the food sector that are important to human welfare, such as the Green Revolution in cereals, popular discussion of the effect of the Livestock Revolution on developing countries is occasionally highly emotional and often imperfectly grounded in facts. The objective of this chapter is to show how the research presented in the rest of this paper relates to the discussion of welfare issues.

The Livestock Revolution and Nutrition in Developing Countries

The discussion of nutritional issues in this section does not address the health effects of consuming contaminated food products. Those effects are discussed in Chapter 8. Even if contamination can be dealt with, is increased consumption of meat and milk a good thing? Concerns about medical problems clearly associated with very high meat and milk consumption in societies such as the United States must be taken seriously (Barnard, Nicholson, and Howard 1995). But sometimes these concerns are extrapolated directly to developing countries in fairly blanket fashion (Goodland 1997; Pimentel 1997) and sometimes selectively, as in the case of China’s cities (Geissler forthcoming).

Scientific conclusions about the effects animal products can have on nutrition in developing countries not only depend on the demographics and income levels of target groups and the commodities under study (CAST 1997a), but they vary also because of the methodologies employed (Hu and Willett 1998). And randomized clinical endpoint trials or other forms of investigation designed to control for spurious correlations when comparing long-term “before” and “after” conditions may be difficult to conduct.

One often-cited approach to studying the link between meat consumption and health relies on correlations between disease rates and patterns of livestock product consumption across locations. A prominent example is a study that looks at such correlations across 65 counties of rural China (Chen et al. 1990). Yet while this approach raises issues quickly and exploits large amounts of data, its reliability is open to question as Chen et al. (1990) themselves point out. The China study could not fully control for other variables that might also explain the results (Hu and Willett 1998).

Hu and Willett recently (1998) conducted a thorough review of the relationship between consumption of animal products and the risk of chronic disease for the World Bank. The goal was to sort through conflicting evidence in order to provide guidance to the World Bank’s investment policies in developing countries. They drew in evidence from all over the world, assuming that while diets and nutritional needs change across environments and work regimes, human biology probably does not.

Hu and Willett found that red meat (beef, pork, lamb) consumption beyond a low threshold level probably increases the risks of coronary heart disease (CHD); dairy products may also do so but to a lesser extent; eggs are probably unrelated to CHD up to one egg a day; and poultry and fish probably decrease CHD. Moderate red meat intake, however, may reduce the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in cases where initial intake levels are very low. High levels of red meat intake may increase the risk of various forms of cancer, but substitution of poultry and fish for red meat probably reduces the risk. Dairy products may be a risk factor in prostate cancer. Hu and Willett conclude that health policy in developing countries should distinguish poultry and fish from beef and pork because the former probably provide greater nutritional benefit than the latter. Hu and Willett also see benefits from expansion of egg and dairy consumption where consumption levels are as low as they are in developing countries.

Authoritative literature on human nutrition in the developing world stresses the widespread prevalence of mild to moderate protein-energy malnutrition affecting up to one-third of all children and perhaps a higher share of pregnant or lactating women. The literature emphasizes the critical role adequate balance and adequate levels of bioavailable protein, calories, and key micronutrients (such as vitamin A, iodine, and iron) play in mental and physical development (Calloway 1995; Sharma et al. 1996; Latham 1997; Neumann and Harris 1999; Geissler forthcoming). Research also shows that adequate, balanced nutrition helps prevent morbidity. Animal products are portrayed in this literature as excellent sources of absorbable forms of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and retinol. Certain meats and milk products are cited as variously being good sources of thiamin, calcium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, vitamin A, and other minerals required in higher amounts during growth periods (Calloway 1995; Latham 1997; Neumann and Harris 1999).

Although a large combination of crop-based nutrients could also provide the necessary amino acids and trace nutrients to meet nutritional needs, securing such a balance throughout the year with vegetable matter alone is not easy for the rural poor in developing countries. On the other hand, increased consumption of even a relatively small additional amount of meat and milk would supply the necessary protein and micronutrients and a fair share of needed additional calories, especially to children, and would do so with a much less varied vegetable-matter diet than using crops alone (Latham 1997; Hu and Willett 1998; Geissler forthcoming; Neumann and Harris 1999).

For all these reasons the Livestock Revolution appears to have many potential benefits for nutrition in developing countries. At present these potential benefits probably outweigh the potential nutritional costs. Whether nutrient balance is secured through a wide variety of crops or a smaller variety of crop and animal products, good nutrition clearly requires the overall intake of an adequate amount of food. The primary nutritional issue for most poor people in most developing countries probably remains securing both an adequate amount of food and a balanced diet.

Once a person regularly consumes excess food calories, the sorts of health problems associated with excess consumption of cholesterol and saturated fatty acids in the developed countries will probably become more prevalent in developing countries, especially among the relatively wealthy in urban areas. However, average per capita consumption of meat and milk in developing countries in 2020 are projected to be less than half the present developed-country average (see Table 16). At levels that low in 2020, the majority of people on the planet are unlikely to face the problem of excess meat and milk consumption for quite some time.

The possibility that the people who could most benefit from increased meat consumption may not share in the Livestock Revolution should be a greater concern than overconsumption. Whether they do benefit will depend principally on the evolution of food prices and the incomes of the needy, topics discussed in the following section.

The Livestock Revolution and Food Security of the Poor

Both ecologists and animal scientists, unlike economists, tend to view the effect of increased animal production on food supplies in developing countries as a trade-off between using cereals (and the land and water used to produce them) as food or feed. Calculations are then presented to argue whether extra production of animal products adds or subtracts from a hypothetical calorie balance available for humans (CAST 1994; Pimentel et al. 1997; Goodland 1997; Brown and Kane 1997).

Pro-livestock authors tend to stress that ruminant animals in developing countries mostly use natural grasses and other feed with little use as food. They also stress the important nonfood uses of livestock (Fitzhugh 1998; CAST forthcoming). “Anti-livestock” authors emphasize that monogastric livestock account for much of the growth of production under the Livestock Revolution, that these animals require high energy feed such as cereals, and that they do not fully replace the cereal calories used to produce them. These authors also argue that because livestock food product consumption increases rapidly with income, the rich probably will bid away the food-stuffs of the poor in the marketplace (Pimentel 1997; Brown and Kane 1997).

Economists tend to reduce the issue to whether increased animal production increases or decreases cereal and meat and milk prices relative to the incomes of poor people, other things being equal. This approach has the merit of defining food security in terms of the ability people have to purchase food staples. But it does not address fully whether all members of the household have physical access to food at average world prices or whether people who are sick can usefully absorb that food at all times. Assessing the impact of increased livestock production on household incomes and food prices is an improvement over nonentitlement approaches and about the best that can be done here.

The previous chapter showed that the simple inference that increased livestock consumption will significantly raise cereal prices by 2020 does not mesh with the rather different and complex picture drawn by the IMPACT projections. Recall that baseline, inflation-adjusted rice and wheat prices in 2020 are projected to be 8 to 10 percent below levels in the first half of the 1990s. Maize prices are projected to decline by only 2 percent. Furthermore, average world cereal prices in the mid-1990s were only about two-thirds (maize) to half (rice) their average inflation-adjusted prices in the early 1980s (Table 27).

In the “worst-case” scenario investigated by IMPACT, rice and wheat prices exceed their inflation-adjusted levels in 1992-94 by only 8-11 percent (Table 28). The price of maize goes up 21 percent. IMPACT also projects modest long-term declining price trends for various meats and milk. The consumption patterns of the rich may prevent livestock products from becoming even more affordable to the poor, but they do not appear to be likely to raise the price of livestock products much above their current levels.

In sum, food prices have been decreasing over the long term, despite rapid increases in the use of cereal feeds. The Livestock Revolution is likely to slow this decreasing trend somewhat by 2020. But the trend reverses only under extreme conditions, and even if it does, the price increases are expected to be small relative to the real price declines seen since the early 1980s. The Livestock Revolution’s effect on the food security of poor people, through cereal prices, is likely to be far less important than its effect on the income of the poor.

The Livestock Revolution and Incomes of the Poor

Livestock are central to the livelihood of the rural poor in developing countries in at least six ways (Livestock in Development 1998). First, they are an important source of cash income. Second, they are one of the few assets available to the poor, especially poor women. Third, livestock manure and draft power are vital to the preservation of soil fertility and the sustainable intensification of farming systems in many developing areas facing increasing population density. Fourth, livestock allow the poor to exploit common property resources, such as open grazing areas, in order to earn income. Fifth, livestock products enable farmers to diversify incomes, helping to reduce income variability, especially in semiarid systems characterized by one cropping season per year. Sixth, livestock provide a vital and often the only source of income for the poorest and most marginal of the rural poor, such as pastoralists, sharecroppers, and widows.

A broad variety of anecdotal evidence from case studies in Africa, Asia, and parts of Latin America shows that the poor and landless derive a higher share of their household income from livestock sources than do the relatively better-off in the same rural communities. Estimates of the share of household income coming from livestock for households with different income levels, farm sizes, and dietary adequacy from all over the world are presented in Table 29. In Pakistan in the late 1980s, for example, Adams and He (1995) found that about 25 percent of the income of the poorest 20 percent of rural households in their sample came from livestock. The richest 20 percent received only 9 percent of their income from livestock. In Egypt in the mid-1970s, Fitch and Soliman (1983) found that an average of 63 percent of the income of landless or near landless households came from livestock. Only 14 percent of the income of large landowners came from livestock. Von Braun and Pandya-Lorch (1991) identify four countries where the malnourished get more of their incomes from livestock than those who are not malnourished. Vosti, Witcover, and Carpentier (1998) show an exception to this trend in their study of Brazil. In parts of Latin America, such as the Amazon and Argentine Pampas, successful animal grazing requires control of large amounts of land.

Poor people have few opportunities to increase their incomes because of limited access to land and capital. Small-scale and backyard livestock production enables the poor to earn income from animals grazed on common property pastures or fed household waste. Livestock production offers one of the few rapidly growing markets that poor, rural people can join even if they lack substantial amounts of land, training, and capital.

The importance of livestock for women’s incomes in developing countries has been widely emphasized (Quisumbing et al. 1995; Valdivia, Dunn, and Sherbourne 1995). Dairy cooperatives have in fact been a major means of bringing women in poor areas successfully into the cash economy in East Africa (Brokken and Seyoum 1992), India (Schneider 1995), and Bolivia (Valdivia, Dunn, and Sherbourne 1995).

Table 29 - The place of livestock in the income of the rich and poor

Country

Wealth/poverty indicator

Stratum

Percent of household income from livestock

Period/size of sample

Source

Brazil (Western Amazon)

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/5

37a

1994, 154 rural households

Vosti, Witcover, and Carpentier 1998



Highest 1/5

64a



Ethiopia

Household income stratum

Very poor

6

1988-89, 550 rural households

Webb and von Braun 1994



Poor

24



Kenya

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/5

61b

1998, 310 dairy farmers

Staal and Baltenweck 1998



Highest 1/5

38b



Pakistan

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/5

25

1986-89, 727 rural households

Adams and He 1995



Highest 1/5

9



Philippines

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/5

23c

1984-85, 500 rural households

Bouis 1991



Highest 1/5

10c



Senegal





Kelly et al. 1993


Sahelian (driest) zone

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/3

24

1988-90,29 rural households





Highest 1/3

14




Sudanian (transition) zone

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/3

10

1988-90, 58-67 rural households




Highest 1/3

8



Guinean (forested) zone

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/3

6

1988-90, 92-102 rural households





Highest 1/3

6



Sudan

Household income stratum

Lowest 1/5

14

1989, 240 rural households

Teklu, von Braun, and Zaki 1991



Highest 1/5

13



Egypt

Landholdings

Landless or near landless

63

1976-77, 165 households

Fitch and Soliman 1983



Largest landholders

14



India (Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra)

Landholdings

Lowest 1/5 of land distribution

5

1997, 699 households

Kerr 1998



Highest 1/5 of land distribution

6



India (Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra)

Landholdings

Landless

7

1975-78, 240 households

Singh, Asokan, and Walker 1982



Largest landholders

15



Mozambique





Mozambique


Monapo

Landholdings

Lowest ¼ of land distribution

2

1991,343 smallholder households

MOA/MSU/UA Research Team 1992




Highest ¼ of land distribution

5




Ribaue

Landholdings

Lowest ¼ of land distribution

6






Highest ¼ of land distribution

5




Angoche

Landholdings

Lowest ¼ of land distribution

3






Highest ¼ of land distribution

2



Pakistan

Landholdings

Landless

14

1986-89, 727 households

Adams and He 1995



Largest landholders

11



Brazil

Dietary adequacy

Malnourished

32

1984, 384 rural households

von Braun and Pandya-Lorch 1991



Not malnourished

27



Pakistan

Dietary adequacy

Malnourished

16

1986-87, 1,082 rural households

von Braun and Pandya-Lorch 1991



Not malnourished

14



Philippines

Dietary adequacy

Malnourished

10

1983-84,792 rural households

von Braun and Pandya-Lorch 1991



Not malnourished

9



Sri Lanka

Dietary adequacy

Malnourished

4

1984, 480 rural households

von Braun and Pandya-Lorch 1991



Not malnourished

1



a Percent of income from cattle.
b Percent of income from dairying.
c Percent of income from livestock, fruit, and vegetables.

A pattern that shows that the poor earn a higher share of their income from livestock than do the wealthy raises the possibility that the Livestock Revolution will be good for the poor. The revolution offers two main reasons for optimism. First, the poor can more easily improve their incomes when they have a major stake in a sector that is growing. Second, the current rapid intensification of animal production comes at a time when the rural poor desperately need higher returns to their shrinking land than field crops alone can offer.

The main reason for concern is that increased intensification might make small operators uncompetitive compared to large producers. But true economies of scale in livestock production may not be great once explicit and implicit government subsidies to larger producers are taken into account. Large producers in many areas enjoy capital subsidies, tax holidays, free government services, exoneration from certain pollution and health requirements, and subsidies on public grazing land rented in large units. Elimination of subsidies or their redirection toward small-scale producers could shift the market in favor of the poor.

A less tractable problem is that large producers often find it easier to contract or vertically integrate with processors than do small producers in developing countries, and there are major economies of scale in the processing of perishable products. Trade in perishables benefits greatly from processing arrangements that standardize quality and make the quantity supplied plentiful and reliable. Large producers also benefit greatly from marketing infrastructure that alleviates the need to sell perishables the same day to the end user, as is traditionally the case in the developing tropics.

Small operators can overcome these barriers by joining institutions of collective action, such as outgrower schemes or participatory producer cooperatives (Staal, Delgado, and Nicholson 1997; Delgado 1998). But the establishment of such institutions requires organization and investment that does not currently exist in most developing countries.

Opportunities for rapid growth are rare in poor rural areas. Livestock production may provide one such opportunity. The poor around the world have shown their ability to produce livestock, and the future for the sector as a whole looks good. However, policymakers and researchers urgently need to find the best market-oriented means for ensuring that small operators benefit from growth in the livestock sector. To accomplish this, policies will have to focus on rural organization. Livestock production may provide one of the major operational themes in effective rural poverty alleviation during the next 20 years, but things could also go the other way. Failure to address how policies have tended to skew livestock development in favor of overly large production units, and failure to promote the vertical coordination of small operators with processors, will lead to a major missed opportunity. Worse, those who need the activity most could be driven out of livestock production.

Other Ethical Issues Raised by Trends in Livestock Production

Some nonfood ethical issues associated with the Livestock Revolution cannot be neglected. To date these issues have manifested themselves primarily in developed countries, where intensification has proceeded the most. But there is no reason to think that these concerns will not show up elsewhere soon.

Animal welfare is a growing ethical concern in the era of massive hog factories and industrial chicken houses (CAST 1997b). As production intensifies in developing countries, concerns over animal welfare will surely surface. Evidence for this is suggested by cultural attitudes toward cows in India, by the strong religious views on ritual slaughter held in many parts of the world, and by the esteem that traditional stockraisers everywhere hold for their cattle.

The air and water pollution that intensive animal industries occasionally create for their neighbors, especially in periurban areas with little participatory government, is also likely to bring increased conflict. Pure market forces in the absence of effective political backlash could create hog lagoons alongside residential neighborhoods. Advance planning and appropriate regulation by accountable government authorities can help overcome the fact that markets do not always reflect the full costs borne by all parties, including neighbors.

Finally, genetic engineering could push the limits of ethical debates in the next 20 years (see Chapter 9 for a discussion of the technology). Cloning of animals raises understandable concerns about possible abuses, particularly given the temptation to work next on humans. Yet the insertion of human genes into transgenic livestock in order to mass produce human proteins in animal milk may be essential for lowering the production costs of numerous pharmaceuticals that remain out of reach for all but the relatively rich. Such experiments may also lead to the development of new drugs, for example for the treatment of cystic fibrosis (Gillis 1999). Regardless of the viewpoint adopted, few people anywhere who are aware of the issues will remain morally indifferent.