EPAR Research Brief #157
Sun, 07/31/2011
Jacob Lipson
Travis Reynolds
C. Leigh Anderson

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of chickens in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Compared to ruminant species (cattle, water buffalo, and goats), chickens produce lower carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, are a less significant driver of human expansion into natural habitat or of overgrazing, have lower impacts on the water cycle, and cause less destruction of natural habitats. Poultry’s major impacts on land degradation result from the production of their grain-intensive feed. Chicken production also poses a threat to avian biodiversity, as chickens are susceptible to viruses and act as vectors of disease transmission to avian wildlife. Chicken manure is widely viewed as a valuable fertilizer in developing countries, although transportation costs limit manure sales in local markets and the high nitrogen-phosphorous ratio can impact certain soils and water. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, health, livestock feed efficiency, and waste).

This brief is part of the Environmental Implications of Livestock series (EPAR Briefs #155-158). The series identifies environmental impacts related to either climate change and air pollution, land degradation, biodiversity, or water resources. We review environmental analyses on the general and species-specific impacts and discuss two types of interventions to mitigate the negative and enhance the positive environmental impacts of livestock: (1) biophysical interventions directed at natural resource components of farming systems, and (2) socio-political-economic interventions directed at individual incentives, policies and institutions. Most analyses of environmental impacts across livestock types recommend both a reduction in overall meat consumption by those who can nutritionally afford it, and a shift in dietary emphasis from ruminant species (cattle, water buffalo, goats), to monogastric species (poultry).

See also:

EPAR Research Brief #155: Environmental Implications of Livestock: Cattle

EPAR Research Brief #156: Environmental Implications of Livestock: Goats

EPAR Research Brief #158: Environmental Implications of Livestock: Water Buffalo


Type of Research: 
Literature Review
Research Topic Category: 
Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Livelihoods
Environment & Climate Change
Geographic focus: 
South Asia Region and Selected Countries
Sub-Saharan Africa

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