Market needs could outweigh misinformation about animal ag
Animal agriculture has come to an interesting crossroads in recent years.
Published: Apr 13, 2012
It seems attempts to limit the industry’s ability to produce and expand are ramping up at a time when demand for many animal-based products has never been greater.
Ultimately, the market/consumer demand likely will dictate what farmers produce and how they raise it in the future, according to Jim Fraley, livestock program director for Illinois Farm Bureau.
Fraley spoke recently at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) annual conference in Denver about the Illinois Farm Families’ effort to connect consumers to farmers to improve knowledge about food production.
“A lot of times we see knee-jerk reactions to issues like asking farmers to stop using r-BST or to stop using gestation stalls,” Fraley said. “The problem is these demands often are made by well-intended people who have a lot of misinformation (about production agriculture).”
Stalls are used to protect pregnant and nursing sows and their piglets in swine production while r-BST is a natural hormone-based product that increases milk production in dairy cows and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Knee-jerk reactions often create bigger problems, which we’ve seen with the horse harvesting issue,” Fraley said.
Since Illinois banned the slaughter of horses in 2007, the number of abandoned horses has skyrocketed while the number of veterinary calls for horses has increased by roughly 400 percent, according to the livestock program director.
Another example of consumer concerns not necessarily backed by facts that is influencing the industry occurred recently when South Dakota-based Beef Products announced it would cease production of lean, finely textured beef (LFTB).
The product, which is 90 percent lean meat, was used in ground beef. U.S. ground beef producers now will have to source more lean products from other countries, according to Fraley.
“There has been a lot of misinformation about the LFTB issue,” Fraley said. “If somebody asked me if I want ‘pink slime’ (the nickname for LFTB) in my burger, my reaction would be ‘absolutely not.’
“But when you find out what LFTB is -- a lean beef product -- then it’s just fine.”
Ultimately, Fraley and other speakers at the NIAA conference believe booming demand will shape how food is produced in the future.
If the world’s population increases as projected by 3 billion people in the next 40 years, world meat production will have to increase by 73 percent, according to Terry Barr, senior director of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division.
Meanwhile, Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, told those at the conference that, with many farmers currently between the ages of 45 and 65 years, a new generation of farmers will be needed to replace about 100,000 farmers who will retire in the next decade.
“We need to raise a new generation of farmers, educate and inform the public about the misinformation of modern production agriculture, and fight for strong farm policy,” Scanlan said.
Fraley added, “what all of these things do is emphasize the fact that we’re going to need technology and new tools to make sure we can feed the growing world’s population.”
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