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Land and Water requirements for meat production in China

By Wanli Zheng

Abstract

China will face a challenge for meat production with its available land and water. The production of meat requires substantial amounts of livestock feed, which in turn require vast amounts of land and water to produce it. As China has continued to develop and per capita incomes of its consumers have risen, dietary patterns have shifted away from staple grains and starches toward animal proteins and fish. China's dra-matic increase in meat consumption would not have been possible without a rapid expansion of its do-mestic livestock industry. This will bring much pressure on environment and natural resources. Are there sufficient land and water in China to meet its meat production in future? Earlier research for the Netherlands showed that land required to produce meat would depend upon live-stock species and the crop used as feed and its yield. Since the Dutch situation is typical in comparison to other agricultural and livestock production systems, an analysis of other systems is required to obtain a more global perspective over the land for meat. In the meanwhile, some earlier studies calculated the vir-tual water contents of crops and livestock products in different countries. However, it took into account the animals in general without considering the differences within species. Therefore, this study applied data on Chinese meat production systems to the available method for investigating into the required land and water for meat in China. Large differences in land and water required for meat production were found between different crops as feed in China. These differences were mainly caused by the large differences in yields and virtual water contents of crops. The average land required for chicken and pork is 12 m2/kg which is two times to, for instance, the Netherlands. The average water requirement is around 3 m3/kg in China with difference of a factor up to 8 compared to the low water-using country. Differences within species have small effect on land and water for meat. Overall, it can be concluded that present meat consumption in China requires about 30-65 Mha land and 70-160 billion m3 water (20-50% of the total arable land and agricultural water available in China). The land and water seem to be sufficient enough to meet meat production, but land and water used for meat will cause competitions with other utilization.

Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:ub.rug.nl:dbi/4c443483f06d5
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