Is pig production sustainable regarding climate change?

By 2100, experts predict a population rise to almost 11 billion people that will carry, among other changes, an increase in meat production. Nowadays, the constant increasing of animal production challenges sustainability. Global meat consumption has a great impact on environment, especially greenhouse gas emissions. In the context of pig production, manure is the product that impacts more to the environment. According to FAO:

The main direct environmental impact of pig production is related to the manure produced. Appropriate storage can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released, and the production of combustibles through bio-digestion can help to make optimum use of the natural resources involved in the production cycle.

Despite this, pig production represents a source of food suply and multiple benefits to humans. A study carried out by Wendy M. Rauw et al. (2019), described two alternative scenarios for improving the sustainability of future pig production systems.

1) High input–high output

A system based on sustainable intensification, maximizing animal protein production efficiency on a limited land surface at the same time as minimizing environmental impacts.

2) Reduced input–reduced output

A system based on selecting animals that are more robust to climate change and are better adapted to transform low quality feed (local feeds, feedstuff co-products, food waste) into meat.

The second scenario results in reduced predicted yields, reduced production efficiency and possibly increased costs to the consumer.

Sustainability of pig production can be improved

Precision farming techniques in high input–high output production systems, providing, through:

Automatic real-time management system

Genetically improved individual animals with exactly the amount of highquality resources required for maximum production efficiency, minimizing losses and waste


However, technification of pig farming systems is not available to the entire sector. Therefore, sustainability of pig production can be improved selecting pigs with higher tolerance to climate change and with a shift from reliance on optimally formulated feeds to local feeds and feedstuff co-products of sub-optimal quality.

Regarding consumers, it is a reality that people are more conscious regarding environmental impact and animal welfare and the number of vegans, vegetarians or flexitarians, is increasing. This is translated in a reduction of meat consumption in certain populations.

Finally, according to Rauw et al.:

Recent developments in the production of meat substitutes offer the potential for cheap mass production of protein, demonstrating the opportunity to add a premium price or taxation on ‘protein from livestock animals’ to the benefit of promoting higher incomes to farmers at the same time as covering increased costs of sustainable production systems. Evaluation of the availability of and limits to production resources, together with willingness to politically enforce policies, may result in the design of new pig farming systems in which both production scenarios can co-exist.



Wendy M Rauw, Lotta Rydhmer, Ilias Kyriazakis, Margareth Øverland, Hélène Gilbert, Jack CM Dekkers, Susanne Hermesch, Alban Bouquet, Emilio Gómez Izquierdo, Isabelle Louveau, Luis Gomez‐Raya. Prospects for sustainability of pig production in relation to climate change and novel feed resources. Sience of Food and Agriculture (2020) 100: 3575-3586.



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