Burning Questions Collection & Prioritization Program

Assembling a list of questions of most salience and urgency to front-line persons

Current (2023) Burning Questions



What is the impact of industrial animal agriculture (including animal feed) on achieving a just and sustainable food system, and on each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?


What do we know about the current status and growth of industrial animal agriculture in LMICs, including the prevalence of industrial practices (versus other systems), the number of animals involved (by species), global supply chains, and government regulations?


How can non-industrial farm animal producers in LMICs make animal welfare and environmental improvements while also being profitable enough to resist the trend toward industrialization? What examples are there where this has occurred and what factors have enabled their success?


How will the increasing production and availability of alternative proteins (e.g., plant-based and cultivated meat) affect industrial animal agriculture in LMICs, including meat consumption, producers' incomes, and greenhouse gas emissions from farmed animals?



What plant-centric diets are nutritionally, culturally, and regionally appropriate for different LMICs? What are the most effective ways to promote those diets to different stakeholders?


What are the drivers of increased meat consumption in LMICs? What are the most effective interventions and communication strategies to stop or slow the trend?


What kinds of strategies and messaging would convince decision makers at public institutions in LMICs to reduce the proportion of animal-based food products served at their facilities and events?



What specific policies of the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and similar entities lead to the development and expansion of industrial animal agriculture in LMICs? What is the role of LMIC governments in this expansion?


What are the key supply-side drivers of the introduction and growth of industrial animal agriculture in LMICs? Are government policies and value chain activities significant and influential drivers (e.g., government subsidies to industry, free trade agreements, corporate marketing and partnerships with governments)?


What is the status of domestic regulatory oversight of industrial animal farming operations in LMICs and what actions are currently being taken by those governments to prevent, monitor, and mitigate public health and environmental impacts?



What policies are needed to stop or slow the convergence of agribusiness and the oil/gas industry (e.g., using methane from anaerobic digesters on industrial animal farms to acquire carbon offset credits)?


What efforts or interventions are both effective and regionally/culturally appropriate to bring greater scrutiny to slow or stop the exportation of industrial animal farming practices to LMICs? What role do LMIC governments play in supporting such expansion?


What impact do food industry standards and voluntary corporate commitments have on meat consumption and animal welfare in LMICs? How can commitments made by companies in higher-income countries be expanded to other markets?


How can large supermarket chains in LMICs help decrease the price of cage-free eggs and normalize their consumption among all types of consumers?



How does industrial animal agriculture impact the economic growth and development of LMICs when "true cost" accounting is used (i.e., including ecological devastation, pollution, GHG emissions, negative public health outcomes, etc.)? How can these external costs be communicated effectively to decision makers and those who influence them in LMICs?


How do animal welfare improvements and "higher welfare" products affect the economics for producers in LMICs? How can welfare improvements that reduce costs or increase sales be communicated to producers and other stakeholders in LMICs?


How much funding is coming from international donors and intergovernmental organizations to further intensify industrial animal agriculture in LMICs? Are there documented environmental and social impacts resulting from these investments that can be used to stop or slow future investments?


In LMICs that export large quantities of animal-based food products, what are the most likely and effective economic scenarios that would reduce farmed animal production, for both export and for domestic consumption?



How can different social movements (e.g., climate change, gender equality, hunger) and farmers' groups in LMICs be persuaded and supported to work in a coordinated manner to address industrial animal agriculture? Are there any past successes that can serve as useful examples?


How can efforts to challenge industrial animal agriculture be globalized in meaningful ways, and more deeply connect those in LMICs with advocates and funding sources in higher-income countries?


What people, leaders, organizations, and resources in LMICs are currently working to slow or stop industrial animal agriculture? Have their efforts made a difference to the spread of industrial animal production in LMICs? How can future efforts be supported and scaled?



How do industrial animal agriculture and alternative farmed animal production systems impact air, land, water quality, and resource consumption in LMICs? How has the shift towards industrial animal production affected the production of human food crops?


What policies are needed to stop or slow the practice of "carbon leakage" (e.g., when companies shift industrial animal farming to LMICs to avoid regulations in higher-income countries)?



How might advances in genetic editing and genetic modification of animals improve or worsen the welfare of farmed animals in LMICs?


How informed about animal welfare practices are extension agents and veterinarians working in LMICs? How to help them learn about and apply best practices?


Do farm animal welfare regulations (e.g., banning cages) tend to favor large-scale farmed animal production over non-industrial systems? What effects do these regulations have on consumption of animal-based products, especially in food insecure households in LMICs?


What are the biggest welfare issues for farmed fish in semi-intensive farming systems in LMICs? What are the best improvements one can make to address these issues?

Want to learn more about these questions?

  • Those who contributed to the 2023 round have provided reasons why they considered the new "burning questions" to be important and worth researching.
  • We have organized these reasons as well as the original wording and comments from the contributors (both of which are anonymized for the purpose of confidentiality) into a second, fuller list. This more comprehensive list will provide the context and nuance that underpin the "burning questions."
  • To request the full list, contact min@tinybeamfund.org.

How does this program operate?

  • This program runs on a three-year cycle. The latest round was held in early 2023. The previous one was in 2020.

  • For each cycle, the program invites staff of organizations and funders who are very interested in addressing negative impacts of industrial animal agriculture in low- and middle-income countries to review and prioritize the existing list of questions, remove questions that are no longer relevant or important, and submit new questions they consider of most urgency and salience to their current work.

  • Participants may also comment on why they consider certain questions to be important and worth researching.

  • The target for each cycle is to have 15-20 participants.

  • The questions are then sorted according to their given priorities, and grouped into broad subject categories.

  • Tiny Beam Fund prepares two lists: 1) Openly accessible - A condensed list of short, succinct questions written by Tiny Beam Fund based on the participants' questions and comments. 2) Available by request - A full list of questions with the participants' original wording as well as their comments.

How are the "burning questions" used?

  • The “burning questions” collected in this program inform the kind of work to be supported and funded by the initiative’s Fellowship program and the Research Planning Grants program.
  • Tiny Beam Fund encourages anyone interested in issues concerning the negative impacts of industrial food animal production globally (funders, students, etc.) to use the list in their own work. 

Why collect "burning questions"?

Actual questions asked by actual persons render what needs to be “understood” and “deepened” tangible:

  • Deepening someone’s understanding – a worthy goal though it is – sounds vague and nebulous. Bringing things down to earth and making them tangible is a must. As we are talking about deepening the understanding of a particular group of persons (who are real and can be contacted), why not ask persons in that group what are the important practical things they don’t understand? Why not ask them to write down their burning questions?
  • The list of questions is an actual list that one can hold in one’s hands to guide one’s work. One can also use the questions to focus attention on particular kinds of data to collect and research to undertake that match the questions. 

Asking important questions is a tried and proven technique:

  • Whether in the scientific or social sphere, those who have achieved remarkable breakthroughs and come up with effective, lasting solutions often have a set of core questions as the bedrock on which their endeavors are based.
  • For example, “Always ask important questions and answer them reliably” is a motto familiar to those who conduct randomized trials/ RCTs because that has served as the guiding principle of the medical science experts who pioneered this method.

Questions invite discussions and exploration: 

  • A person asking a question is saying, “I don’t have (all) the answers; please tell me more”.
  • Persons pay more attention to and engage more thoughtfully with things that they recognize as responses to questions they themselves have asked. 

Inviting a range of different front-line individuals to share their questions is more “participatory” than having a few individuals decide what the focus areas should be.

  • Why not come up with questions and priorities ourselves? Why take all the trouble of approaching a range of front-line persons?
  • Workable, enduring solutions are more likely to be found by considering multiple perspectives, and using a multi-disciplinary systems approach rather than ourselves or each front-line group working in silos.
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