Image credit: FAO
Studies may have shown that meat and dairy production create huge carbon emissions, and even Bill Clinton is going vegan these days. But dairy is not all bad news. In fact, a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) claims that small-scale dairy production could play a significant role in fighting hunger. The report, by the Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PDF), aims to assess the current status, and the future potential, for smallholder milk production across the Globe. Looking at the writing about the prospects for small-scale dairy production over at the FAO blog, it seems the focus is as much on economic development and job creation as it is on the efficiency of dairy as a food production system.
With demand for milk increasing by 15 million tons a year, and with about 150 million small scale milk producing households currently producing, on average, about 11 liters of milk a day per household, small-scale dairy is an established, reliable and scalable method of local food production. The report's authors argue that it would take very little investment to help farmers make the most of their animals:
"Smallholders are generally very resource-efficient," said Joachim Otte, one of the co-editors of the report. "Access to credit, improved animal genetic resources and animal health services, together with supportive political measures enabling them to participate in changing markets, are crucial."
No doubt there will be those who argue that promoting dairy is not the right way to go. After all, whose to say that starting with small-scale dairies won't swiftly move us on to the mega-dairies currently cropping up in developed nations. Certainly it would make sense not to take the rise in demand for milk and meat for granted—exploring ways to manage that demand should also be on the table if we're aiming for truly sustainable agriculture.
But for now, at least, the FAO is putting its money on milk.
More on Dairy and Sustainability
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Great Recession plus High Corn Prices Changing the Great American Diet
Meat and Dairy Create More Emissions Than Miles
Bill Clinton Drops Meat and Dairy, and 24 Pounds