IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


29th December, 2021 Agriculture

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  • There is a revolution happening on farms around the world. From Indonesia to Mexico, livestock operations are transitioning into plant-based operations and creating safer and better-paid jobs.



  • As the demand for plant-based products continues to expand rapidly, farmers are seeing an opportunity to get out of livestock farming.
  • Farmers are transforming old hog barns into productive mushroom farms, replacing chicken with hemp and growing oats where dairy cows once grazed.


Issues in the Livestock Industry


  • Animal farming has trapped many of these same farmers in notoriously exploitative contracts, with poor working conditions, low income, high vulnerability to market forces and extreme stress.


Health and Psychology

  • Industrialised livestock production is a dangerous business that poses a serious threat to human health and psychological well-being.


Zoonotic Diseases

  • The impact of injuries, illness and trauma affects the individual worker and has devastating effects on the families and communities in which they live.
  • For instance, new strains of bird and swine flu, which have the potential to become zoonotic diseases, emerge each year posing a major threat to human health.Poland, Europe’s largest poultry producer, experienced its worst bird flu in mid-2021, which resulted in millions of birds culled to stop the spread of the disease.


Enormous compensation claims and lost income

  • Culling of millions of birds is, leave governments with enormous compensation claims and many farmers without any means for regaining their lost income. Some of these farms will never recover.


Vulnerability of the packaging Industry

  • Meat-packing jobs are among the most dangerous, with daily reports of amputations, burns, head injuries and psychological trauma.
  • In the United States, it is estimated that up to 4 per cent of all COVID-19 related deaths through July 2020 were tied to meat and poultry plants.



  • Many of the workers at these plants are from racialised communities and already faced multiple socio-economic challenges that were exacerbated by the spread of the virus.
  • Nearly half of front-line meat-processing workers in the United States are categorised as low-income workers, 80 per cent are people of colour, and 52 per cent are immigrants.


Lack of healthcare

  • Many workers are undocumented and lack access to healthcare and other worker protections.
  • The European meat-packing industry also largely depends on migrant or cross-border workers whose working, housing and employment conditions are more often than not considered deplorable.


Impact on environment

  • The meat production industry adversely affects the climate.
  • Approximately 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed to the meat industry.
  • On the contrary, plant-based meat production can be less deleterious to the environment.


Advantages of transitioning away from industrialized livestock production

Climate friendly

  • It empowers farmers to protect the climate and the very land on which they work.
  • The livestock sector is projected to account for up to 81 per cent of the 1.5 degrees Celsius emissions budget by 2050 if production continues unabated.
  • Global animal production in the world is industrialised, severely endangering our planet’s ecosystems, natural resources, livelihoods, human health and animal welfare.
  • To remain within environmental limits and planetary boundaries, researchers have shown that the global production of animal-sourced foods must be reduced by at least half.


Prevents damage to the livestock sector (Vicious Cycle)

  • Livestock production not only exacerbates climate change but a rise in global temperatures is equally damaging for livestock production, posing a major threat to farmers' livelihoods.
  • Climate change diminishes the quality of feed crop and forage, decreases water availability and negatively impacts animal and milk production.
  • Further, climate change increases the emergence of livestock diseases, reduces animal reproduction and exacerbates biodiversity loss.
  • Globally, a 7-10 per cent decline in livestock is expected as global temperatures rise, with associated economic losses between $9.7 and $12.6 billion, solely due to climate change.


Enormous job-creation potential

  • Transitioning to environmentally and socially sustainable economies can drive job creation, create better jobs, increase social justice and reduce poverty, according to the International Labour Organisation.
  • This move can revitalise rural economies and mitigate the adverse effects of urbanisation.
  • Overall, the jobs in plant-based food production would be safer, more equitable, support gender parity and strengthen rural economies when coupled with increased public serv


  • While animal meat is a good source of protein with important amino acids and minerals, it also contains cholesterol, which raises the risk of chronic diseases when consumed regularly in large amounts.
  • One should be wary of the use of antibiotics for disease control and anabolic agents for enhanced growth of livestock animals.
  • Plant-based meat products give you the best of both worlds, a healthy future for the body and the planet.


Transition champions: International Examples

  • There are numerous examples of impactful leadership in just livestock transition.
  • Denmark, for instance, recently announced a binding decision to halve agricultural emissions by 2030 as a part of their ambition to reach 70 per cent greenhouse gas reductions by 2030.
  • The government has committed to creating an annual fund of $11.7 million until 2030 to support the transition to plant-based food.


The Case of India

  • India is home to the largest livestock population. As per the 20th Livestock Census (2018), the total Livestock population is 535.78 million in the country showing an increase of 4.6% over Livestock Census-2012.
  • But many startup companies in India are expecting the mock meat market to flourish in the coming years in a significant way.
  • The emergence of plant-based meat brands in India indicates there is a niche and well-aware consumer group.
  • The fundamental drivers for the growth of the plant-based meat sector are an increasing vegan population, technological advancements, increased cholesterol-related health problems, and most importantly, changing consumers' perception towards sustainability.
  • On a global scale, plant-based meat market retail sales grew from $3.4 billion in 2019 to $4.2 billion in 2020, jumping by an astonishing 23.5 percent.
  • Plant-based meat has been gaining traction in every part of the world, and the market in India is not left behind.


Final thoughts

  • The science and socioeconomic data clearly indicates that business as usual is no longer an option. To enable a just livestock transition, ambitious political action is required at all levels.
  • Furthermore, such measures should also be complemented by policies aimed at increasing plant-based food consumption to prevent emissions leakage and to enable an overall transition to more sustainable food production and consumption.