Search icon

Extensive farming feeds the world

News Section Icon Published 19/10/2012


The media has been full of stories about bad harvests, increasing crop costs, looming shortages of animal products and rising food prices. In short: international food security is endangered. Today, nearly a billion people experience hunger and the world’s population is increasing. It has been suggested by some that intensifying farming provides the solution. We take a closer look at the findings of a food-security report published this week.

New research

Compassion in World Farming commissioned a new, independent study to find out what types of livestock systems would be best suited to feeding the world population in 2050. The result in a nutshell: extensive livestock farming is a better way to provide sufficient food for a growing number of people, whereas factory farming poses a threat to worldwide food supply.

Key findings

  • Factory farming = competition for food between people and livestock

    Intensive livestock farming compromises food security as some crops that are fit for human consumption are fed to animals. Large-scale farming on scraps is not possible. Two thirds of the total cereal production in developed countries is used as animal feed. On a global level, more than one third of cereals and over half of oil crops are fed to livestock.

  • Factory farming discriminates against smallholders

    The notable growth of the livestock sector in recent decades has not benefitted the rural and urban poor. Trends towards factory farming exclude small farmers for their lack of capital and put their livelihoods at risk.

  • Small-scale livestock husbandry is central to food security

    It is essential that strategies aiming to increase food security include animal welfare and small-scale farming. Livestock on small-scale farms can provide food, employment, income, transport, energy and fertiliser. Factory farming neglects the multifunctionality of livestock. Roaming space for extensively kept animals does not reduce food security.

  • Path to food security: sustainable diets

    Hunger and malnutrition cannot be tackled if the Western world goes on eating large amounts of "cheap" meat. A cutback on meat can compensate for rising consumption in developing countries. Furthermore, food loss and waste must be addressed.

Common sense

Factory farming consumes large amounts of crops; these are grown in unsustainable monocultures with the use of fertilisers, pesticides and water. 

Factory farming is Big Business dominated by large corporations solely interested in their revenue. 

Factory farming ignores the basic needs of animals and leads to severe suffering. 

Small-scale farming, in contrast, enables farmers to sustain their families and their communities. On small farms, the full potential of livestock can be exploited, meanwhile, animal welfare is not inherently violated. The findings of the study, therefore, show a common-sense approach to finding a solution to the world’s food-security problems.

The full story

If you are interested in more information on this, download and read the 4 page summary, the briefing or the full report.


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).