Ancient balances

The relation between production and consumption of products of animal origin has changed over time. Historically, transport and communication were limited in comparison to the current globalization context and commercialization of fresh products, which thus perish quickly as meat, milk, and eggs was very difficult. For this reason the demand for this type of food was satisfied locally and cattle breeding, above all, depended on local availability of resources as fodder, pastures and water. The connection between agriculture and animal production, infact, has always been very strong: bovines and ovines munched on fields which were turned into pastures during crop rotation, eating fodder and their natural manure was employed to fertilize lands. In recent years, instead, the intensity of animal production is no longer determined by local ecological limits but can theoretically grow permanently or at least until the environment is able to balance to some extent the damages caused by human activities.
In particular, in countries were intensive breeding has gained the upper hand, several consequences are taking place:

  • fields which were left as “pastures” have been largely substituted by corn and soy crops: unlike fodder, this type of food makes animals grow much faster;
  • cattle used as workforce in fields has been substituted by modern machinery that employs fuels and produces polluting substances;
  • cattle has been gathered in enormous fenced areas in intensive breeding farms;
  • the great amount of zootechnical manures that is accumulated in industrial breeding plants, must be disposed as waste: partly because today fields are fertilized with chemical fertilizers and also because manures are produced in such great quantities that all fields surrounding industrial breeding farms wouldn’t be sufficient to absorb the amount of manure produced!
  • the broken balance between agriculture and breeding has led, ultimately, to a greater use of resources and production of waste superior to the capacity of the environment to absorb it.

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