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Prospects for the European beef sector over the next 30 years

Abstract : The role of livestock production within the European society has changed much in recent years. In the future, this change is set to continue not only for the beef supply chains (competitiveness) but also for animal research: new strategies and revised objectives are necessary to meet the challenges. The demand for animal products including meat is increasing, notably in developing countries. In the 27 Member States of the EU, beef production declines slowly and the trade balance has been negative since 2003. The quantity of beef meat will remain closely linked to the dynamics of the dairy sector (number of dairy cows), public policies and price relationships between crop and livestock production. The context in which beef is produced has changed considerably over time. Some issues (e.g., animal welfare, protection of the environment, pasture-based systems) concern not only cattle but also all types of ruminants. Recent developments in animal genetics and genomics will help to investigate the regulation of phenotypic variation in livestock, including the variation in sustainability traits such as efficiency of nutrient use, emissions (nitrogen, phosphorus, and greenhouse gas), health, product quality, and most important, robustness. Research should be targeted at practical issues, for instance the development of predictive approaches for the development of precision livestock farming, which has proven to be efficient at increasing, step by step, the efficiency of production and consequently competitiveness of the beef supply chain. Focusing on efficiency of nutrition is also an important challenge to limit the production cost and to reduce potentially harmful emissions such as carbon, methane, or nitrogen (this suggests notably to improve our knowledge of forage intake and digestion). There is also an increasing demand to evaluate feeds based on multiple criteria including nutrition, product quality, animal health and welfare, traceability, and sustainability. Due to the scarcity of natural resources, we should analyze in more details the performance of livestock systems based on pasture, while studying the ecological footprint of animals.
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Jean-François Hocquette, Vincent Chatellier. Prospects for the European beef sector over the next 30 years. Animal Frontiers, American Society of Animal Science, 2011, 1 (2), pp.20-28. ⟨10.2527/af.2011-0014⟩. ⟨hal-02645905⟩

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