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Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the development of civilization. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years, and its development has been driven and defined by greatly different climates, cultures, and technologies. However, all farming generally relies on techniques to expand and maintain the lands or water areas suitable for raising domesticated species. For plants, this sometimes requires a form of irrigation, although much agriculture is rainfed, and there are methods of dryland farming; pastoral herding on rangeland is still the most common means of raising livestock. In the developed world, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture has become the dominant system of modern farming, although there is growing support for sustainable agriculture. The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials.
Pictured left: Free range chickens being fed outdoors
Poultry farming is the practice of raising domesticated birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, as a subcategory of animal husbandry, for the purpose of farming meat or eggs for food.
More than 50 billion chickens are raised annually as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs. Chickens raised for meat are called broilers, while those raised for eggs are called laying hens. In total, the UK alone consumes over 29 million eggs per day. Some hens can produce over 300 eggs a year. Chickens will naturally live for 6 or more years. After 12 months, the hen’s productivity will start to decline. This is when most commercial laying hens are slaughtered.
The majority of poultry are raised using intensive farming techniques. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry meat, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way. One alternative to intensive poultry farming is free range farming.
Friction between these two main methods has led to long term issues of ethical consumerism. Opponents of intensive farming argue that it harms the environment and creates health risks, as well as abusing the animals themselves. Advocates of intensive farming say that their highly efficient systems save land and food resources due to increased productivity, stating that the animals are looked after in state-of-the-art environmentally controlled facilities. A few countries have banned cage system housing, including Sweden and Switzerland, yet consumers can still purchase lower cost eggs from other countries' intensive poultry farms.
Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term:
Sustainable agriculture in the United States was addressed by the 1990 farm bill. More recently, as consumer and retail demand for sustainable products has risen, organizations such as Food Alliance and Protected Harvest have started to provide measurement standards and certification programs for what constitutes a sustainably grown crop.
Categories: Sustainable agriculture, Sustainability
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