Pig Impacts: Comparing Costs of Contrasting Livestock Systems.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Zoology


Theme: Agriculture and Food Security

Food production has a greater impact on biodiversity and land use than any other human activity.

Livestock production is the fastest growing agricultural sector, with most growth in industrial monogastric systems of which the largest, by mass of meat produced, is the pig sector.

Growing empirical evidence suggests the impacts of farming on biodiversity might best be limited through land sparing (boosting yields on farmland whilst conserving natural habitats), but high-yield systems are perceived to have other negative costs, including greater greenhouse gas emissions and antimicrobial resistance and poorer animal welfare. However systematic quantification of these costs per unit of production has not yet been attempted and may identify systems that combine high yields with low impacts, as well as help flag less favourable systems. Balmford et al., (2018) developed a framework to address potential trade-offs by comparing costs per unit production of systems in biophysically comparable contexts. The application of this framework was limited by data availability; there was no useable data on some key livestock production outcomes, including for monogastrics and animal welfare and antibiotic use.

1. Quantify GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions, AMU (Antimicrobial Use) and pig welfare (all expressed /kg deadweight (DW; see Table 1 for definition) produced), and yield and hence land cost (=1/yield, in m2-years/kg DW) of a representative and broad range of UK and Brazilian pig systems.
2. Characterise the extent to which land costs trade off with GHG emissions, AMU and animal welfare (all per unit production) across UK and Brazilian pig systems.
3. Identify possible systems that combine low land cost, low emissions, low antimicrobial resistance risk and high animal welfare.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011194/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2023
1943048 Studentship BB/M011194/1 30/09/2017 29/06/2022 Harriet Lucy Bartlett