Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Peter Newton

Location: U.S.
Academic field: Environmental studies
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: Livelihood transitions in low- and middle-income countries: From animal agriculture to alternative proteins
  • Co-author: Waverly Eichhorst
  • Keywords: Livestock farmers. Livelihood transition. Alternative proteins. Brazil.
  • What We Learned From It:
    • We gained insights into whether and how it is possible for commercial livestock producers and other people involved in the animal agriculture sector to transition to other livelihoods and sources of income, if and when there is a dietary and market shift away from animal-sourced foods and towards alternative proteins, with Brazil as a case study.
    • Relatively few examples of farmers and ranchers having actually transitioned out of animal agriculture into alternative protein production.
    • No examples of transition programs supporting farmer transitions away from animal agriculture in low- and middle-income countries.
    • Potential challenges and barriers for farmers include economic viability, lack of knowledge, skepticism or judgment from other farmers. But some farmers recognize that growing crops can be less labor intensive and an integrated crop-livestock farming system can be beneficial.
    • Characterizing the opportunities and risks for livestock farmers is necessarily speculative. It is difficult to state with any certainty how likely any one outcome is, or on what timescale or magnitude. Nonetheless, being proactive rather than reactive, thinking through, and systematically generating awareness of possible outcomes (both positive and negative) is a necessary if insufficient step towards being able to guide actions that could secure the best-possible futures for farmers.


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • We think this rarely discussed but important “human” aspect of industrial animal agriculture is worthy of support. What consideration should be given to persons working for or contracted by operators of factory farms or who are large-scale livestock producers /owners if large farms are closed down or the industrial model is not in use anymore? One cannot treat these persons – and there is a huge number of such persons in low- and middle-income countries – as “collateral damage”. These persons need to be able to make a decent living doing other kinds of work, and producing alternative proteins instead may be a good new pathway. On the other hand, one also cannot keep using the excuse of “well, there are all these hundreds of millions of livelihoods that must not be jeopardized, so let’s maintain the status quo and not meddle with the current industrial model”.
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