The first way to improve efficiency is to reduce the number of stages in the food chain. This is because energy is lost at each stage of the food chain.
Therefore it is more efficient - and therefore usually better economically - for a farmer to grow arable crops (e.g. corn) rather than to grow grass and graze cattle.
However, people need to eat a varied diet, and it can be better economically to graze cattle, if meat prices are particularly high.
The second way to improve efficiency is to try and reduce the amount of energy lost by farm animals.
A lot of energy is lost as heat so animals are often kept close together in heated buildings and are kept in small pens so energy is not lost by them walking about.
This makes the transfer of energy more efficient - basically, the animals grow faster on less food. This makes things a lot cheaper for the farmer (he doesn't have to spend so much on food and it takes less time) so the meat costs less for us to buy.
Advantages of Intensive Farming
- cheaper for the farmer and for us
- less energy wasted - better for the environment
- animals eat less food - more animals can be farmed
- animals take up less space - more living space for us
Disadvantages of Intensive Farming
- poor, unnatural conditions - growing demand for free-range and organic meat
- free-range can be sold at a higher price
- crowded conditions cause diseases
- to prevent disease, animals are injected with antibiotics. However, when humans eat the animals, bacteria can develop immunity to these antibiotics, so the antibiotics become less effective for human medicines
- fish stocks are getting low, and animals that are intensively farmed are often fed on fish - which they wouldn't eat naturally.