Following the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s annual conference in Denver, Scott Stuart, the organization’s managing director, offers his observations from the program.
Animal agriculture faces a time of unprecedented opportunity in meeting the world’s growing demand for protein, while also navigating an array of challenges. The National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s annual conference focused on those issues, and Scott Stuart, NIAA’s managing director summarized some of the key points. NIAA is a broad-based organization with representation from across the industry and production of all livestock species.
Much of the discussion, Stuart says, centered around the need to address those challenges, including regulatory issues, a shrinking land base, higher production costs and a consumer base with limited understanding of agriculture and food production. Several speakers, he says, pointed out how tremendous advancements in efficiency and productivity have allowed animal agriculture, and food production overall, to keep pace with growing world populations.
That progress will need to accelerate in the coming years, though, even as resistance to agricultural technology grows among some consumers. During the conference closing general session, Brian Rittgers, Elanco’s director of global management development, Elanco, outlined how American agriculture can serve as a model for the world A century ago, he says, years ago, Americans spent, on average, 50 percent of their income on food, but today that percentage has dropped to just 10 percent.
By 2050, however, the world’s food production will need to double, and Rittgers says about 70 percent of the increase will need to come from improvements in technology to boost productivity. He pointed out, for example, that the Chinese government has set a goal of boosting dairy production enough to provide per-capita milk consumption of 300 grams per day, versus today’s average of 100 grams. To reach that goal, he says, China would need to add the equivalent of the total U.S. dairy herd four times over. Limitations on resources will prevent herd growth on that scale, so the increased production will need to come mostly from technology that increases output per cow.
Gary Sides, PhD, a nutritionist with Pfizer Animal Health, closed the conference discussing how improvements in agricultural productivity have freed the rest of our society for other pursuits, providing people with more choices on how to live their lives.