This paper examines the role of livestock products as commodities of trade, responding to the demand and higher prices that many external markets offer, and at the same time providing important contributions to the development process in poorer countries. It highlights that this opportunity is not without its threats: much of the Western world has, over the last half century in particular, invested substantial amounts of money in controlling and eradicating many infectious diseases of livestock, and in building up healthy and highly productive animals, the products derived from which earn them very large sums of money on world markets. Such countries are not willing to take risks that could threaten their livestock industries, and their domestic and export markets that maintain high animal health and food safety standards. The study builds on a number of 'success stories', examples where developing countries have succeeded in exporting livestock or livestock products to external markets. An analysis of the factors governing their success revealed some commonalities: all were driven by strong private sector partners who contributed capital, management expertise and entrepreneurial flair; most concerned livestock products, rather than live animals, which matched the market's requirements; many had developed strong brand identities which had become synonymous with quality, safety and dependability; and many were vertically integrated systems, incorporating small and medium scale out-grower producers. Often these successes have been achieved despite the absence of effective support from the public sector, such as national veterinary authorities. One of the key findings of this study is the disparity between the push for global harmonisation of animal health standards for trade, and the lack of capacity of developing countries, particularly LDCs, to meet these standards. The study considers how this might be rectified and concludes that building capacity of regional bodies to create regional centres of excellence with regard to SPS matters may be the most practical way forward.