Building sustainable beef production: addressing environmental and management challenges in intensive production systems

M. L. Galyean


Intensive beef feedlot and grazing systems that developed in the U.S. over the last century are among the most efficient in the world in terms of production per animal.  Whether these systems can be sustained over time is an important question to examine, especially as similar systems are beginning to develop in other countries.  In the last 25 yr, intensive beef production systems in the U.S. have faced increasing pressure from environmental regulations related to air and water quality, food safety issues, and attacks from animal rights activists.  With continuing concerns about effects of intensive animal production units on surface and groundwater supplies, management of riparian areas, and global apprehension about climate change, environmental regulations on concentrated livestock feeding operations will no doubt increase in the future.  Food safety issues continue to be at the forefront of consumer concerns, which have focused greater attention on animal traceability and will likely shift the burden and liability associated with food safety issues to the producer level.  Animal rights activism and efforts to combat “factory farming” in addition to consumer perceptions about the health and environmental benefits of less intensive or “organic” production methods will increasingly challenge many of the technological advances (e.g., growth promotion technologies and antimicrobial feed additives) that have been a hallmark of the intensive beef production systems in the U.S.  Countries that are currently expanding intensive beef production systems can learn valuable lessons from the experiences of U.S. beef producers, which should assist them in planning the growth and development of their own intensive livestock production systems.  Food production will be stretched to the limit by increasing world population in the next several decades, which could have a positive effect on the role of intensive beef production systems in meeting worldwide protein needs.  To fulfill this important role of providing food for the world market, intensive beef production systems in the U.S. and elsewhere, must focus on ways to turn the many challenges they face into opportunities for production of safe, wholesome products in environmentally neutral operations using production practices that maintain the highest level of integrity and concern for animal well-being.

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Los trabajos publicados en esta revista están bajo la licencia Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial 2.5 Argentina.

Revista de la Asociación Argentina de Producción Animal. ISSN impreso 0326-0550 ISSN en línea 2314-324X.

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