This is the week each year when I tell you that I don't believe in New Year's resolutions but I will make a commitment to do better in one area. Today my commitment is to continue to improve lives for all mankind and the beauty of it is that what mankind really is what I enjoy most--producing more milk meat and eggs.
The United Nations, while I don't agree with their approach, says global consumption of meat is expected to rise nearly 73 percent by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organisation released this information in December as a result of the World Livestock Report.
However, take note of how they put a negative slant on our productivity in the United States by including the statement that the world will need to produce "two-thirds more animal protein than it does today, bringing new strains to bear on the planet's natural resources." Our advantage is that we do produce more with less and improve the planet at the same time. They want to emphasize the need for more families that own a dozen goats in their backyard.
Figures from the FAO indicate that livestock products today supply about 12.9 percent of the calories consumed worldwide--20.3 percent in developed countries. Its contribution to protein consumption is estimated at 27.9 percent worldwide and 47.8 percent in developed countries.
Now for anybody that has recently sold hogs, goats, lambs, beef cattle or even milk, you clearly realize things are at historic levels but are things really that good. I am never a glass half empty guy but look at the facts.
We only produce 65 percent of the goat and lamb meat we eat domestically.
Beef cattle breeding herd numbers are at severely low numbers, low enough that we should all have great concern over the erosion of the infrastructure in place to ever again grow the size of the industry.
The dairy industry has fewer than 9 million cows in production compared to the 24 million in 1945. Those 9 million cows do produce three times as much total milk as the 24 million did 70 years ago but we are talking about the need for serious grow in production numbers.
Again looking at the FAO report which clearly states "Meat consumption is projected to rise nearly 73 percent by 2050; dairy consumption will grow 58 percent over current levels."
The high prices we received today are all due to a shortage of inventory and lack of animals to produce what we need to meet the growing demand. I am saying that we need to maintain this level of price for the animals produced but accomplish that by adding numbers in production.
The proposed need for a significant increase in milk, meat and eggs is not taxing to the planet at all if we continue to pave the road by concentrating animals, utilizing technologies and improving efficiencies.
In the same month that we get the UN's "We are destroying the planet" fear-mongering report, the following article comes out in the Journal of Animal Science.
"The Environmental Impact of Beef Production in the United States: 1977 compared with 2007" (Journal of Animal Science, Dec. 18, 2011) by Jude Capper, Ph.D., at Washington State University. Jude documents that each pound of beef raised in 2007 used 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water, 19 percent less feed and 9 percent less fossil fuel energy than equivalent beef production in 1977. Waste outputs were similarly reduced, shrinking the carbon footprint of beef by 16.3 percent in 30 years.
In addition, according to previous research conducted by Capper, each pound of grain-finished beef requires 45 percent less land, 76 percent less water and 49 percent less feed and at the same time generates 51 percent less manure and 42 percent fewer carbon emissions than grass-finished beef.
So you can see that my commitment to myself in this New Year is to be better at contributing to the overall method of feeding more people with less resources. The United States agricultural system, through research, science and the implementation of technology, has improved the opportunity for the highest quality of life known to mankind. Who would have ever guessed that "Where's the beef?" would be more than one company's marketing slogan but a mantra for consumers around the world. That is something that we, as American producers, can use to toot our own horns and also motivate us to continue increasing our productivity. Happy New Year!
(Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.)