Global food supply: land use efficiency of livestock systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

162 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose Livestock already use most global agricultural land, whereas the demand for animal-source food (ASF) is expected to increase. To address the contribution of livestock to global food supply, we need a measure for land use efficiency of livestock systems. Methods Existing measures capture different aspects of the debate about land use efficiency of livestock systems, such as plant productivity and the efficiency of converting feed, especially human-inedible feed, into animal products. So far, the suitability of land for cultivation of food crops has not been accounted for. Our land use ratio (LUR) includes all above-mentioned aspects and yields a realistic insight into land use efficiency of livestock systems. LUR is defined as the maximum amount of human-digestible protein (HDP) derived from food crops on all land used to cultivate feed required to produce 1 kg ASF over the amount of HDP in that 1 kg ASF. We illustrated our concept for three case systems. Results and discussion The LUR for the case of laying hens equaled 2.08, implying that land required to produce 1 kg HDP from laying hens could directly yield 2.08 kg HDP from human food crops. For dairy cows, the LUR was 2.10 when kept on sandy soils and 0.67 when kept on peat soils. The LUR for dairy cows on peat soils was lower compared to cows on sandy soils because land used to grow grass and grass silage for cows on peats was unsuitable for direct production of food crops. A LUR
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-758
JournalThe International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Feed efficiency
  • Food security
  • Human-inedible feed
  • Land scarcity
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Livestock


Dive into the research topics of 'Global food supply: land use efficiency of livestock systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this