University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Animals for Food

Agricultural practice: animal husbandry, breeding programmes

Throughout recorded history – since the time of the Roman invasion of Britain in the year 43 AD - people have used selective breeding programmes to improve their stock: better meat and milk yields from cattle, more wool from sheep, improved strength, speed and endurance in horses.

As society developed and people’s contributions to it diversified, food production fell to specialised farmers who continued to try to maximise yield in the various animal species they kept. This led to greater and greater intensification, and eventually some people became concerned about the welfare of animals.

Activity: Research Task:

Visit the  Scottish Agriculture College’s website and look at their areas of research interest. For each one, discuss whether there is a biological as well as an economic advantage, and state any ethical issues that you think might arise from the research.

Food production: quantity and quality

There are three main factors that determine the demand and supply of food: i) food prices, ii) people’s incomes and iii) consumer preferences. Farming practices, market forces and government intervention all interact to ensure that the production and supply of food is always changing.

It presents a highly complex global picture, but essentially a situation is emerging in which “commodity agriculture” operates alongside “quality agriculture”.

  • Commodity agriculture will provide standard undifferentiated products at low cost for sale in the mass market in competition with other, often overseas, suppliers
  • Quality agriculture will cater for consumers’ demand for high quality, individual food products.


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