Livestock Sustainability–A Matter of Perspective

Sustainability is a term used frequently by multiple facets of agriculture, including beef production. The term is often hard to define but unarguably highly sought after by all industries. A perception exists that feed produced for animal consumption competes with human food supplies. This opinion can often be confusing for consumers–and at times it portrays livestock producers as inefficient, wasteful, and unsympathetic. In a 2013 Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) publication, Jude Capper addresses the various challenges the global livestock industry faces as population growth increases and the average American becomes further removed from production agriculture. Although this paper was written several years ago, mainstream media proves that the discussion has not ended. Here are a few articles recently addressing the subject:
Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist, acknowledges that global livestock production’s eco-footprint on the planet is significant, but he provides hard evidence on how population growth strongly correlates with such effects. Additionally, Dan shares his opinion on distraction tactics and the reality of resource consumption in production agriculture
A Feedstuffs article written by Dr. Nevil Speer shares similar opinions with Dan Murphy. Throughout this piece you will read about his thoughts concerning the general consumer perception of the U.S. beef industry.
“Livestock: On our plates or eating at our table?” That question is addressed in this research paper that analyses global livestock feed rations and feed conversion ratios—it gives specific insights on the diversity in production systems and feed materials.
A recent quote from Jude Capper states, “Livestock sustainability continues to be a significant issue for producers, policy-makers, and consumers worldwide. Claims that livestock compete with people for food are still being made on a daily basis. Millions of tons of by-products from the human food and fiber industries can be fed to livestock in order to produce safe, affordable, lower-environmental impact animal proteins, and ruminant animals can produce high-quality milk and meat from poor-quality grazing land where we cannot grow other crops. We are all faced with the challenge of communicating the benefits of livestock production to food stakeholders to maintain a resilient global industry, both now and in future.”
By: Kylie Peterson

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