Livestock will remain key to feeding the world

Livestock will remain a vital part of global food supply for one vital reason – they can eat things we can’t.

That was the conclusion of Dr Marty Matlock of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Arkansas, speaking at a Provimi Animal Nutrition Seminar at Barcelona.

Dr Matlock, who’s a professor in the university’s Biological and Agricultural Engineering department, was discussing how food production could be increased in a sustainable manner to meet the expected global population of 10 billion by 2050.

He suggested that production would need to be tripled and outlined where some of the improvements would come from. Genetics could lead to a 50% improvement, with improvements to poor management contributing a further 50%. Technology was worth a further 25% as was better use of land resources. Even dealing with current levels of food could increase the food available by 10%. 

Dr Matlock said that global prosperity depended on food production, but that this was something that governments had failed to recognise. As a result, governemt-backed investment in agriculture was in decline. With adequate support, agriculture could be an important economic builder in Africa and South America.

Increasing propserity would lead to more demand for meat, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as livestock could eat things that we couldn’t; and they were very efficient at converting these feedstuffs into protein.

Dr Matlock saw pig and poultry production increasing significantly and pointed out that they were much friendlier to the environment than other livestock. The global pig and poultry sectors currently contributed 9% and 8% respectively of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 41% and 20% for beef and dairy. To put these figures in context, the livestock production overall was responsible for 14% of total human influenced emissions.

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