Animal production

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In animal production , including livestock or livestock, are farm animals for the production of foodstuffs and raw materials maintained. Animal production is therefore a branch of animal husbandry .

to form

The livestock industry can be divided according to various criteria:

Land use

Pasture type

Type of pastureland
Type of grazing

Production process

The main goals of animal production are the production of food ( meat , milk , eggs , honey and fish production ), but also the production of hides for leather production , wool (especially from sheep), hair (e.g. from Camels), down and feathers as well as raw materials for the chemical industry. Cattle , pigs , poultry , sheep and rabbits are produced for these purposes .

Global production

The largest meat producers (2007)
rank country Production
(in thousand tons )
proportion of
1 China 70,464 26%
2 United States 42,020 16%
3 Brazil 18,898 7%
4th Germany 7,412 3%
5 India 6,508 2%
6th Russia 5,755 2%
7th France 5,664 2%
8th Spain 5,617 2%
9 Mexico 5,548 2%
10 Argentina 4,439 2%

In 2007, 1,027,517,690 tons of animal products (excluding eggs and fishery products ) and 1,181,090,879,000 bird eggs were produced. Of the animal products, 66% was milk and 27% was meat .


The main meat producers are China , the USA and Brazil. Since 1961 production in China has increased by 2,600%, in Brazil by almost 900%, in India by approx. 380%. Global meat production increased 377%. 94% of the meat in 2007 came from pigs , poultry , cattle , sheep and goats .


India and the USA are the main producers, with shares of the global production volume of 16% and 12% respectively. 83% of the milk produced in 2007 came from cattle and 13% from buffalo .


With 40%, China is by far the largest egg producer. 94% of the bird eggs produced in 2007 were hen eggs .

Other products

In addition to meat, milk and eggs, leather and wool are obtained from livestock farming .

Significance for world nutrition

Animal products contribute 15% of the total calorie intake worldwide, and over 80% of the world's population cover the majority of their protein, fat , niacin and iron requirements through ruminant products.

Feeding efficiency

Since the fed food is not converted 1: 1 into meat calories or protein, it is common in agricultural sciences to determine conversion rates for the energy and protein efficiency of the feed:

product entire feed feed that can be used by humans
Lamb 2 5
beef 3 6th 57 109
Turkey meat 9 22nd
Chicken 11 23 31 75
pork meat 14th 14th 58 86
milk 17th 25th 101 181
Eggs 18th 26th

Some scientists criticize the use of vegetable raw materials to produce animal products because of their low efficiency. By changing the human diet to a larger proportion of non-animal components, one could save food and thus improve the global food supply. As a policy measure it is proposed to tax animal production processes according to their conversion rates.

It should be noted that animal and human nutrition are not the same. Monogastric animals are mainly fed with grain that is also directly usable for humans. Still, 30% of US monogastric feed is made up of fish meal , bone meal , and byproducts of grain milling and fermentation that are not eaten by humans. Ruminants , on the other hand, have the ability to obtain energy from parts of plants that cannot be used by humans, such as grass . Around 50% of the energy in plants such as maize , wheat and rice cannot be directly absorbed by humans, but can be made available through animal feed. A wide variety of waste products, even wood chips and newspaper , can also be fed to ruminants.

Only about 11% of the global land area can be used for the production of plants that are directly intended for human consumption. Large parts of the earth's surface can only be used as pastures. The calorie intake of cattle used for meat or milk production in the USA consists of about 75% of material that cannot be used by humans, in countries with low availability of grain this proportion is higher. In the USA, where increased amounts of grain are fed in the final phase of fattening, the diet of a so-called beef cattle consists of around 80% roughage .

About 70% of the grain production of the industrialized countries and about a third of the global grain production is fed to livestock, primarily to monogastric animals. The energy conversion rate of these is relatively high in monogastric animals and in cow's milk production. In milk production, the amount of energy in the end product that can be consumed by humans exceeds the amount that is used in feeding in the form of amount that can be consumed by humans, since cows are fed with considerable amounts of feed that cannot be consumed by humans. The protein conversion rates for feed that can be consumed by humans are very high, especially for cow's milk and beef, as most of the protein comes from feed that cannot be consumed by humans. Feeding grain to beef cattle is a relatively new practice in industrialized countries, and it has increased with the falling grain prices since the 1950s. Feeding is heavily dependent on grain prices and thus represents a buffer against shortages on the food markets.

When considering the conversion rates shown here, it should be noted that they come from North American data. In industrialized countries, on average, more feed that can be used by humans is fed than in developing countries. In developing countries, the conversion rates for the total amount of feed are therefore lower than those in industrialized countries, while the conversion rates for the amount of feed that can be used by humans are higher than in industrialized countries.

Another relevant fact, which is often overlooked when considering the conversion rates, is the higher area yield of the most important feed grain, maize, compared to the most important food grains, rice and wheat. In most regions, people prefer rice and wheat to corn. Most of the corn-growing areas are unsuitable for growing rice. Therefore, switching from feed grain to food grain would result in switching from corn to wheat. This shift in the United States alone would reduce global grain production by 50 million tons due to the lower area yield.

Some scientists assume that a regionally limited reduction in animal production would not necessarily go hand in hand with a significant improvement in the global food situation. In 1998, the IFPRI simulated a reduction in meat consumption in industrialized countries in 2020 to half the level of 1993. According to the results, prices of animal products would initially fall due to a drop in demand. This would result in an increase in the consumption of animal products in developing countries of around 15%. The increase in the consumption of grain products in developing countries would be comparatively small at 1.5%. As a result, the contribution of not using animal products to food security is small. Far more important are increases in the efficiency of agriculture and economic growth in developing countries.

Environmental sustainability

Estimated consumption of virtual water for
various agricultural products
(m³ water / ton of product = l / kg) According to various authors
& Hung
& Hoekstra
& Renault
et al.
beef 15977 13500 20700 16726
pork meat 5906 4600 5900 5469
cheese 5288 5288
Chicken 2828 4100 4500 3809
Eggs 4657 2700 3200 3519
rice 2656 1400 3600 2552
Soybeans 2300 2750 2500 2517
wheat 1150 1160 2000 1437
Corn 450 710 1900 1020
milk 865 790 560 738
Potatoes 160 105 133

The average US diet consumes more land, energy, and water resources than an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet with the same amount of calories . Livestock farming, for example, has a significantly higher water consumption per unit of yield than crop production (see table). In a study on California , cattle production has the greatest influence . Reductions in biodiversity have so far resulted in particular from the fragmentation of the forest caused by animal production , desertification (advancement of deserts), invasive plant species and habitat pollution. To date, moderate factors have included toxicity, overfishing , and the displacement of wild species. The loss of biodiversity caused by animal husbandry through forest fragmentation, intensified land use , global warming , displacement of wild species, erosion of livestock diversity, toxicity and habitat pollution will increase sharply in the future , according to forecasts by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The intensification reduces the ecological footprint of animal husbandry and is therefore also recommended by the FAO as a more sustainable solution to extensive animal husbandry.

Global warming

Greenhouse gas emissions from production for different diet types in England
group Emissions per day
(in kg of CO 2 equivalents )
High meat consumption (≥ 100 g / d) 7.19
Medium meat consumption (50–99 g / d) 5.63
Low meat consumption (<50 g / d) 4.67
Fish consumption 3.91
Vegetarian 3.81
Vegan 2.89

In addition, livestock farming emits significantly more greenhouse gases than crop production. By far the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming consists of nitrous oxide and methane and is due to the digestion of the animals ( manure and rumen fermentation ); Feed production and fuel consumption are relatively insignificant. According to a simulation, the net present value of the avoidance costs of greenhouse gas emissions would be massively reduced in the period 2000–2050 assuming a complete global meat avoidance. If global meat consumption were to be reduced to less than a third within 40 years from 2015, another study suggests that nitrous oxide and methane emissions from agriculture would fall below the 1995 level. Another study estimated that an all-vegan US diet would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 6% compared to the average diet. Halving meat consumption in the industrialized countries alone would, on the other hand, only result in minor global emissions reductions, since the developing countries would then increase their consumption accordingly.

A study by the FAO in 2006 concluded that livestock farming contributed 18% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions more to global warming than the entire transport sector. At the same time, livestock farming is responsible for almost 80% of emissions from agriculture.

In a 2009 study, the FAO study was criticized. The authors complained that the FAO had made unrealistic assumptions about the extent of deforestation caused by livestock farming . In industrialized countries, land consumption through animal production has not changed in the last few decades. In the US , forested area has increased by 25% over the past 25 years. Second, the FAO prepared a complete life cycle assessment for animal production , but only takes direct emissions into account for the transport sector. In most industrialized countries, animal production has a relatively small share of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions compared to transport, energy and other industrial sectors. For example, animal production in the US is less than 3%, while the transportation sector is at least 26%. In developing countries, on the other hand, the ratios would be different, since the transport and energy sectors are much smaller there. In Paraguay, for example, livestock farming is responsible for over 50% of emissions. Third, the FAO disregarded the climate-relevant alternatives to animal production. It ignores the fact that both the alternative use of resources used by animal husbandry and the alternative procurement of the products (e.g. food, wool, fertilizer) and services (e.g. traction) provided by animal husbandry would emit greenhouse gases . A correct estimate of the global warming potential of animal production is only possible if these alternative emissions are taken into account. One FAO study author accepted the criticism of comparing greenhouse gas emissions from transport and agriculture, but continued to view the rest of the FAO study as largely correct. The FAO is currently working on an improved study.

Land consumption

A study published by Poore and Nemecek (2018) in the journal Science examined the varying environmental effects of the production of 40 selected foods in different production systems. According to the authors' model calculation , the removal of animal products from current menus will reduce land use by 3.1 billion hectares. That would roughly correspond to the common area of ​​Australia, China, the European Union and the United States. In the model calculation, the production of animal products could use up to 83% of the world's arable land and cause up to 57% of the various emissions of food, whereby it only contributed 18% of the calories and 37% of the proteins to human nutrition. According to a study by the US management consultant AT Kearney, the use of meat substitutes is expected to increase significantly.

Animal welfare and animal rights

In animal ethics, a sub-area of applied ethics , the question arises whether or how use of animals by humans can be justified. In animal ethics, this question is asked independently of the economic and ecological aspects of animal husbandry.


  • James R. Gillespie, Frank B. Flanders: Modern Livestock and Poultry Production. 8th edition. Delmar - Cengage Learning, Clifton Park NY 2009, ISBN 978-1-4283-1808-3 .
  • Jürgen Weiß, Wilhelm Pabst, Karl Ernst Strack, Susanne Granz: Animal production. 13th, revised edition. Parey, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-8304-4140-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Animal husbandry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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