Exporting animal products
In addition to filling stomachs, animal agriculture plays several important roles in communities. According to the 2009 FAO report “Livestock in the Balance,” expanding animal production in developing countries improves more than just food security.
“Beyond their direct role in generating food and income, livestock are a valuable asset, serving as a store of wealth, collateral for credit and an essential safety net during times of crisis,” wrote FAO. “Livestock are also essential to mixed farming systems. They consume waste products from crop and food production, help control insects and weeds, produce manure for fertilizing and conditioning fields and provide draught power for ploughing and transport.”
Animals support communities financially. In developing countries, economic development means a growing middle class. In an article written by the American Society of Animal Science, Nancy Morgan, a liaison to the World Bank and economist with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, said that this growing middle class demands even more animal products.
“Increasingly, they’re moving away from grain consumption and increasing demand for livestock products,” said Morgan. “The growth and demand for milk and meat products has probably exceeded all other commodities,” said Morgan.
Export markets are constantly changing to meet this demand.
According to the April 2012 “Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade Circular Archives” report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, “India is forecast to become the world’s leading beef exporter in 2012 due to an expanding dairy herd, efficiency improvements, increased slaughter and price-competitiveness in the international market.”
This is an example of innovation in animal agriculture. The beef exported from India is actually buffalo meat, which is counted as beef in USDA estimates. The buffalo beef is sold at lower prices than beef from cattle, and it is prepared to meet the dietary laws of Muslims. By increasing buffalo production, India can export more beef to huge markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. Improvements in herd health and efficiency made that expansion possible.
Animal scientists studying disease could help India expand their export market even more. According to the USDA report, foot and mouth disease is a “significant hurdle” for India’s animal producers.
The United States is also expanding its global market. In 2012, U.S. beef and veal exports are predicted to increase by 166,000 tons. Pork exports are predicted to increase by 95,000 tons. Poultry exports are predicted to increase by 125,000 tons.
Increased exports do not always mean increased production. According to the USDA report, even though poultry exports are increasing, poultry production in the United States is expected to decrease.
“Relatively higher feed costs will dampen expansion despite rising broiler meat prices,” wrote USDA officials.