USDA's Economic Research Service just released a report on the transformation of the livestock industry. Livestock agriculture has undergone a series of striking transformations, according to the report. Today's livestock farms tend to be tightly linked to other stages of production and processing through formal contracts. While the farms are usually owned and operated by a family, they rely increasingly on hired labor. And the farms that account for most production are much larger than they were in the past.
The study found that U.S. livestock production is shifting to much larger enterprises, in part because of scale economies. Between 1987 and 2002, the production locus (the farm size, in annual sales, at which one half of national production comes from larger farms and half from smaller) increased by 60% in broiler, 100% in fed-cattle, 240% in dairy, and 2,000% in hog production. Recent surveys indicate that production has continued to shift to larger operations since 2002.
Click here to access the full report.