Understanding The Dominance Of Industrialized Animal Farming
The global economic system, the consolidation of corporations, and government policies push animal agriculture toward industrialization, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Ultimately, a small number of firms become dominant and influence policies, and despite the negative consequences, global finance and government agencies tend to overlook or support these trends. In this study, the authors set forth a two-step framework for studying the process of industrialization in any farming sector in any country.
The first step in the framework is studying four topics about the sector of interest at the international, national, and provincial levels:
- The history of agricultural policies, such as subsidies
- The role of finance
- Trade policies, such as tariffs and export quotas
- The physical and political infrastructure, such as roads and contract enforcement
The second step in the framework involves expressing those findings using four tools:
- Spheres of influence are a way to visually display how much power different groups have over policies in that industry. In the case of global farmed bird genetics, the authors identified that genetics companies, the feed industry, domestic bird meat producers, and international financial institutions such as the World Bank have the most control over policy development.
- Corporate concentration maps show how many or few firms make a particular product and how the number of firms has changed over time. High concentration, where fewer firms make most of a product, is associated with higher prices and less product improvement. The authors used this tool to show how the chicken breeding market has become highly concentrated. Over the past sixteen years, the number of companies that breed farmed birds decreased from eighteen to four.
- Firm ownership structures assess who owns the company and whether it is a monopoly. The authors found that, while many farmed bird-breeding companies continue to be owned by particular families, private equity firms have also started to buy the companies. Some companies are bought and sold relatively quickly.
- Investment portfolios of public development banks, such as the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, help researchers and activists understand the banks’ role in shaping industries. In farmed bird genetics, the authors found that the International Finance Corporation finances large producers and helps them expand in low- and middle-income countries.
The authors discuss the Indian chicken industry as a case study. Similar to the genetics example, a single large chicken meat corporation emerges and dominates the market. Its success is partially due to successful lobbying, permissive governments and financiers, and how few companies breed chickens in that country.
Power over policy development in Indian chicken belongs mostly to large firms, international finance institutions, and industry lobby groups. Government agencies responsible for trade decisions also have some control. Those with the least power include retailers, vets, restaurants, government agencies focused on rural economies, and farmers.
Animal advocates can use the two-step framework to understand how power and resources are distributed in animal farming industries. The framework highlights the connections between policymakers, financiers, and producers, and can be applied to any sector. In two case studies, the authors showed that dominant corporations, their lobbyists, and international finance institutions have the most control over animal farming policy development. Conversely, consumers, farmers, and retailers have the least power. Animal advocates may find the framework useful when strategizing about policy change in unfamiliar sectors.