PUBlic Professor Series | Dr. Ian MacLachlan

Changing Livestock Geographies and Global Meat Consumption: What are the implications?

Dr. Ian MacLachlan, Department of Geography & Environment

In this wide ranging presentation, Ian MacLachlan’s goal is to provide some geographical and historical context to make sense of the livestock industry from a Lethbridge perspective. Beginning with the creation of the Lethbridge Stockyards in 1950, the kill and chill plants of the 1960s, and Alberta’s “feedlot revolution” of the late 1980s and 1990s, he sketches and outline of the origins of beef production in Lethbridge County. On May 20, 2003, the booming cattle-finishing sector collapsed and things have never been quite the same. Yet MacLachlan argues that in some respects we dodged a bullet, and things might have been much worse! How did the industry recover from the BSE calamity and how is it faring, just over ten years later?

If beef consumption is gradually falling and Canada’s cattle herd is the smallest it has been since the 1990s, Canada is bucking a global trend towards increasing meat consumption and increasing livestock production. The world is supporting greater food animal production today than ever before in human history! We are in the midst of a global “livestock revolution.” MacLachlan will describe the magnitude of the production surge and will outline some of the economic and environmental implications of the livestock revolution, leaving lots of time for questions and discussion of these momentous trends.

A professor in the Geography Department at the University of Lethbridge, MacLachlan has documented the historical evolution of food animal production in Lethbridge from the 1950s onwards. He also studies today’s global geographical shifts in livestock production and consumption, analyzing the implications of rising demand for meat and other types of animal products in developing countries, and the simultaneous declining demand for these products in Canada. MacLachlan would ultimately like to better understand the economic and environmental consequences of these trends, and the potential opportunities and risks they pose for Canada’s livestock industry.

“The global food animal population is going up extremely rapidly, and that is the exact opposite of the kind of trend that we’re seeing in North America,” MacLachlan says. “It’s important to study this trend in food animal production from a human welfare perspective and from an environmental perspective.” Read the full story here. Download presentation notes here.

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