A sustainable and competitive livestock sector is important to Europe; today and in the future. Research and innovation have been key in the sectors success and will remain essential to ensure its contribution to a sustainable Europe.
European livestock farming has an important role in European and global food and nutrition security. It contributes to the provision of protein-rich, safe and health food while responding to diversifying demands and avoiding deficiencies in micro-nutrients. It is key in generating added value from cereals, protein rich crops and crop residues, as well as utilising plants that are inedible by humans.
Livestock are present in almost all regions in Europe in a wide diversity of production systems according to local economic, geographical and sociological contexts. The diversity of production systems gives resilience to the entire European production sector and may satisfy a wide range of consumer demands in terms of price of products and image of the production system.
The livestock sector contributes substantially to the European economy (€168 billion annually, 45% of the agricutlural activity), the trade balance and creates employment for almost 30 million people. Livestock farming is also a key element for the vitality of many European territories.
European production standards are extremely high compared with those from other parts of the world in terms of animal welfare, safety, healthiness, environment, etc. They must be valued and supported. Because of a growing population and increasing prosperity, demand for these animal products are predicted to double in the next decades. Europe has always been a world class producer of animal products. It has potential to lead the way in environmental and animal welfare stewardship and ensure socially responsible European animal production.
Thanks to significant efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the livestock sector is starting to contribute to mitigating climate impacts by developing and improving technologies and practices that effectively reduce emissions. Even though European systems have relatively low emission intensities, improvements have to continue.
To stay competitive, we need to stay ahead. Research and innovation in the livestock sector are crucial to bring this about. It is our challenge to find solutions for further development, that are resource efficient, diminish or eliminate environmental pressure, are adaptable to climate change and even contribute to mititgate it, are beneficial for animal health and welfare, contribute to a European sustainable circular bio-economy,
and that meet the needs of European citizens.