There's an old adage that the odor on a livestock farm “smells like money.”
Indeed, raising livestock can be lucrative. But making money in the industry now requires new strategies, according to Purdue economist Michael Boehlje, who was instrumental in creating The Future of Animal Agriculture in North America, an international report released last spring by the Farm Foundation.
Head of the report's economic forecast team, Boehlje predicts industry trends will prevail. “We'll see fewer and larger livestock and poultry operations,” he says. “Mid-sized and smaller producers are going to have to seriously consider where they fit in the integrated supply-chain structure.”
Boehlje says the two primary factors affecting North American meat exports are developing economies and trade agreements. As consumer spending in other countries increases, meat purchases do, too. However, competition in meat production is now global, and where the world's population gets its beef, pork and poultry depends on factors such as cost and trade access.
"The demand for U.S. animal products is likely to grow,” Boehlje says. “But consumer tastes are changing, and government requirements are, too.” Ironically, Boehlje says, government rules affect the industry, but maybe not as much as the uncertainty of regulation.
The report raises many questions and answers few, but Boehlje says the future of livestock production in the United States depends on how the industry, government and academia use the information to shape the future of animal agriculture.