Effects of Dutch livestock production on human health and the environment

Post, Pim M.; Hogerwerf, Lenny; Bokkers, Eddie A.M.; Baumann, Bert; Fischer, Paul; Rutledge-Jonker, Susanna; Hilderink, Henk; Hollander, Anne; Hoogsteen, Martine J.J.; Liebman, Alex; Mangen, Marie-Josée J.; Manuel, Henk Jan; Mughini-Gras, Lapo; Poll, Ric van; Posthuma, Leo; Pul, Addo van; Rutgers, Michiel; Schmitt, Heike; Steenbergen, Jim van; Sterk, Hendrika A.M.; Verschoor, Anja; Vries, Wilco de; Wallace, Robert G.; Wichink Kruit, Roy; Lebret, Erik; Boer, Imke J.M. de


Observed multiple adverse effects of livestock production have led to increasing calls for more sustainable livestock production. Quantitative analysis of adverse effects, which can guide public debate and policy development in this area, is limited and generally scattered across environmental, human health, and other science domains. The aim of this study was to bring together and, where possible, quantify and aggregate the effects of national-scale livestock production on 17 impact categories, ranging from impacts of particulate matter, emerging infectious diseases and odor annoyance to airborne nitrogen deposition on terrestrial nature areas and greenhouse gas emissions. Effects were estimated and scaled to total Dutch livestock production, with system boundaries including feed production, manure management and transport, but excluding slaughtering, retail and consumption. Effects were expressed using eight indicators that directly express Impact in the sense of the Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response framework, while the remaining 14 express Pressures or States. Results show that livestock production may contribute both positively and negatively to human health with a human disease burden (expressed in disability-adjusted life years) of up to 4% for three different health effects: those related to particulate matter, zoonoses, and occupational accidents. The contribution to environmental impact ranges from 2% for consumptive water use in the Netherlands to 95% for phosphorus transfer to soils, and extends beyond Dutch borders. While some aggregation across impact categories was possible, notably for burden of disease estimates, further aggregation of disparate indicators would require normative value judgement. Despite difficulty of aggregation, the assessment shows that impacts receive a different contribution of different animal sectors. While some of our results are country-specific, the overall approach is generic and can be adapted and tuned according to specific contexts and information needs in other regions, to allow informed decision making across a broad range of impact categories.