Animal Breeding / Animal Diseases / Animal Feeding / Animal Health / Animal Production / Food Security / Livestock / Research

The future of hunger: How animal science supports global food security

In the past few weeks, Madeline McCurry-Schmidt has published a series of short pieces exploring ways that animal scientists can help feed the world’s growing population.

Published on the American Society of Animal Science ‘Taking Stock’ blog, the five articles covered:

Part 1 – explored the coming food crisis from a livestock perspective
Part 2 – looked at how animal scientists use new nutrition research and technology to increase feed efficiency
Part 3 – looked at how new research and technology related to animal breeding can make animal production more efficient
Part 4 – looked at ways animal scientists can treat and prevent the diseases that threaten animal and human health
Part 5 – looked at the challenges of applying animal science research around the world.

All five parts can also be downloaded as a single PDF file

2 thoughts on “The future of hunger: How animal science supports global food security

  1. Interesting figures presented in Part 2—on innovations in animal feed for greater efficiency:

    ‘Greener meat?

    ‘Improving feed efficiency does not just mean more animal protein; feed efficiency also benefits the environment.

    ‘“If it takes less feed to feed the animals, then there’s less waste that’s going to be produced by the animals, whether it’s gaseous waste like methane or solid waste,” said Kerley.

    ‘In December, Washington State University animal scientist Jude Capper published an article in the Journal of Animal Science showing that beef production has become more efficient and reduced pressure on the environment since 1977.

    ‘“Consumers often perceive that the modern beef production system has an environmental impact far greater than that of historical systems, with improved efficiency being achieved at the expense of greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote Capper.

    ‘In fact, green house gas emissions from beef production have decreased over the last 30 years. To produce 1 billion kilograms of beef, producers now use 69.9 percent of the animals, 81.9 percent of the feedstuffs, 87.9 percent of the water and 67.0 percent of the land that they did in 1977. Along with that increase in efficiency came an 18.1 percent decrease in manure, a 17.3 decrease in methane and a 12 percent decrease in nitrous oxide emission.

    ‘“Gains in productive efficiency allow increases in food production to be achieved concurrently with reductions in environmental impact,” wrote Capper. “As the U.S. population increases, it is crucial to continue the improvements in efficiency demonstrated over the past 30 years to supply the market demand for safe, affordable beef while reducing resource use and mitigating environmental impact.”

    ‘Overall, the carbon footprint per billion kilograms of beef decreased 16.3 percent between 1977 and 2007.

    ‘Many animal scientists are bringing attention to how increasing feed efficiency can reduce the environmental impact of animal agriculture. In the July, 2011 issue of Animal Frontiers, Aarhus University researchers John Hermansen and Troels Kristensen looked at life cycle assessment (LCA) studies, which tracked carbon output through meat and dairy production. The LCA studies include analyses of livestock management steps like feed transportation, manure handling, and meat and milk production.

    ‘In meat production, Hermansen found, farmers should try to use less feed to raise livestock. “In order to reduce the carbon foot print of the livestock products, farmers should draw very much attention to the overall feed efficiency,” said Hermansen in an interview with the American Society of Animal Science. This viewpoint is backed by studies showing that in pig farms where the ratio of feed to kilogram of body weight gain was less, carbon footprint was reduced by 10 percent. Increased feed efficiency was also important in dairy farming, where increased milk production per cow markedly reduced carbon footprint.

    ‘The decreased environmental impact is a combination of many factors, from better disease management to better transportation systems, but feed efficiency was important.

    ‘“It’s sort of a double-whammy,” said Nancy Morgan, a liaison to the World Back and economist with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. “If you could increase productivity, rather than increasing the number of animals, you’re producing less green house gases.”. . .’

    See original paper: ‘Management options to reduce the carbon footprint of livestock products’ by John E. Hermansen and Troels Kristensen

  2. And this from part 5 of this ASAS series of articles:

    ‘. . . According to the April 2012 “Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade Circular Archives” report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, “India is forecast to become the world’s leading beef exporter in 2012 due to an expanding dairy herd, efficiency improvements, increased slaughter and price-competitiveness in the international market.”

    ‘This is an example of innovation in animal agriculture. The beef exported from India is actually buffalo meat, which is counted as beef in USDA estimates. The buffalo beef is sold at lower prices than beef from cattle, and it is prepared to meet the dietary laws of Muslims. By increasing buffalo production, India can export more beef to huge markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. Improvements in herd health and efficiency made that expansion possible.

    ‘Animal scientists studying disease could help India expand their export market even more. According to the USDA report, foot and mouth disease is a “significant hurdle” for India’s animal producers. . . .’

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