National Research Council presents suggestions for sustainable animal ag

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, April 8, 2015 - Reinvigorating animal agricultural research is essential to sustainably addressing the global challenge of food security, according to a report issued by a National Research Council committee, part of the National Academies of Sciences.

Lets Talk Food

The report, The Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability, argues that animal agriculture faces many sustainability challenges in meeting global food demand, namely, in three areas of sustainability: environment, economic, and social.

“Whatever the definition of sustainability and however it is applied to animal agriculture, a key to ensuring a sustainable food system is a holistic systems approach,” the report says.

The Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS) will host the launch of the report on Wednesday afternoon at the National Academy of Sciences Building.

Global demand for farmed animal protein is anticipated to nearly double by 2050. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that there will be a 73 percent increase in meat and egg consumption and a 58 percent increase in dairy consumption over 2011 levels worldwide by 2050.

Among its recommendations, the committee that published the report says the recently created Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, should work with USDA to develop a U.S. Animal Science Strategic Plan or Roadmap for capacity building purposes that covers planning from 2014 to 2050.

Also, the report says engaging social scientists and researchers from other relevant disciplines should be a prerequisite for securing grant funding for integrated animal science research projects, such as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Coordinated Agricultural Project.

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Research in animal agriculture should continue to develop the field's understanding of nutrient metabolism and utilization in farmed animals and the affects of those nutrients on gene expression, the report says. Research must also focus on alternative feed ingredients, which may be inedible to humans, but could be used to reduce the cost of animal protein production and the industry's environmental footprint.

 

Also, USDA should carry out an animal welfare research prioritization process, the report adds.

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