, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 58–70 | Cite as

Industrial Food Animal Production and Global Health Risks: Exploring the Ecosystems and Economics of Avian Influenza

  • Jessica H. Leibler
  • Joachim Otte
  • David Roland-Holst
  • Dirk U. Pfeiffer
  • Ricardo Soares Magalhaes
  • Jonathan Rushton
  • Jay P. Graham
  • Ellen K. Silbergeld
Original Contribution


Many emerging infectious diseases in human populations are associated with zoonotic origins. Attention has often focused on wild animal reservoirs, but most zoonotic pathogens of recent concern to human health either originate in, or are transferred to, human populations from domesticated animals raised for human consumption. Thus, the ecological context of emerging infectious disease comprises two overlapping ecosystems: the natural habitats and populations of wild animals, and the anthropogenically controlled habitats and populations of domesticated species. Intensive food animal production systems and their associated value chains dominate in developed countries and are increasingly important in developing countries. These systems are characterized by large numbers of animals being raised in confinement with high throughput and rapid turnover. Although not typically recognized as such, industrial food animal production generates unique ecosystems—environments that may facilitate the evolution of zoonotic pathogens and their transmission to human populations. It is often assumed that confined food animal production reduces risks of emerging zoonotic diseases. This article provides evidence suggesting that these industrial systems may increase animal and public health risks unless there is recognition of the specific biosecurity and biocontainment challenges of the industrial model. Moreover, the economic drivers and constraints faced by the industry and its participants must be fully understood in order to inform preventative policy. In order to more effectively reduce zoonotic disease risk from industrial food animal production, private incentives for the implementation of biosecurity must align with public health interests.


influenza A virus avian poultry zoonoses agriculture biosecurity 


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica H. Leibler
    • 1
  • Joachim Otte
    • 2
  • David Roland-Holst
    • 3
  • Dirk U. Pfeiffer
    • 4
  • Ricardo Soares Magalhaes
    • 5
  • Jonathan Rushton
    • 4
  • Jay P. Graham
    • 6
  • Ellen K. Silbergeld
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health SciencesJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Animal Production and Health DivisionFood and Agriculture OrganizationRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Royal Veterinary CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  5. 5.School of Population Health, University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  6. 6.U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentWashingtonUSA

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