Claims are often made that livestock are a drain on resources because they require a large amount of feed that could otherwise be used by humans. However, a new study undertaken by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation demonstrates that livestock place less of a burden on the human supply chain than previously thought.
Livestock consume about 6 billion tonnes of dry matter as feed per year – sounds like a lot, right? However, according to this new research, 86% of this feed is not edible for humans. The findings report that, in fact, livestock contribute to food security by supplying essential macro and micro-nutrients, providing manure and draught power and generating income.
Some key findings from the study include:
- Meat makes up 18% of global calories, 25% of global protein consumption and provides essential micro-nutrients like vitamin B12, iron and calcium.
- Previous studies have reported that the consumption of grain needed to raise 1kg of beef is between 6kg and 20kg. This study reports that on average, only 3kg of cereals are needed to produce 1kg of meat.
- 86% of the global livestock feed intake in dry matter consists of feed materials that are not currently edible for humans.
- If not consumed by livestock, these leftover grains could quickly become an environmental burden as the human population grows and consumes more processed food.
- Modest improvements in feed conversion ratios can prevent further expansion of arable land dedicated to feed production.