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Interrelationships of Animal Agriculture, the Environment, and Rural Communities


  • Hogberg, M. G.
  • Fales, S. L.
  • Kirschenmann, F. L.
  • Honeyman, Mark
  • Miranowski, John
  • Lasley, P.


Animal agriculture is closely interrelated to both the natural environment and human systems, including rural communities. Accordingly, changes in animal agriculture can have wide-ranging consequences across many areas. During the past 50 yr, there has been tremendous change in animal agriculture, involving an increase in the size of production units, greater reliance on technology, a corresponding decrease in human labor, increased confinement of animals, and a general trend toward monoculture or specialized production systems. At least in part, these changes were brought about as a consequence of animal science research in nutrition, breeding, reproduction, growth, and so on. A long-term goal for animal scientists has been to increase the biological efficiency of animal-based food production, and the success in reaching this goal has been remarkable, with the time to market, growth rates, milk and egg production, etc., per animal increasing two- to threefold in some cases during the last 50 yr. The increase in the efficiency of animal agriculture has brought about a parallel decrease in food prices. Nonetheless, whereas animal science in one sense has been very successful, new questions or issues have emerged. The scale of animal systems today sometimes concentrates large numbers of animals into smaller areas that cannot handle the resultant animal manure. Stream and ground water pollution is increasingly a concern in some regions. Odor is a nuisance problem that increasingly places neighbors and urban growth in conflict with confinement animal systems. Possibly one of the biggest issues can be stated in terms of sustainability: Can all current food animal production systems continue as they currently exist? Additionally, the decrease in the number of producers has affected rural communities, and in some cases has brought about the demise of small towns. Animal scientists typically contend that they serve the interests of producers and strive to promote practices that are environmentally sound. Bringing about a discussion among animal scientists as to whether these goals are always met, or could be better met, is important if both the industry and our rural communities are to survive and thrive.

Suggested Citation

  • Hogberg, M. G. & Fales, S. L. & Kirschenmann, F. L. & Honeyman, Mark & Miranowski, John & Lasley, P., 2005. "Interrelationships of Animal Agriculture, the Environment, and Rural Communities," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12628, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:12628

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