Pork producers challenged to boost output as world population surges

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 - Rob Aukerman, president of U.S. and Canada operations at Elanco Animal Health, says pork producers will have to boost output by about 50 percent by mid-century to provide necessary protein levels for a global population that's expected to surge to 9 billion people from the current 7.2 billion. And he said they must do so sustainably.

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“We can't build a peaceful planet on empty stomachs and on human misery,” Aukerman told producers at the recent Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. The increase is possible, he said, pointing to statistics that show the industry is now producing about twice the amount of pork per person as it did in 1961. But he said since resources are finite, producers will have to find ways to get more out the pigs they are raising.

In other words, bigger hogs in fewer days. That means growing hogs to an average market weight of about 282 pounds in just 25 weeks, a dramatic change from today's figures of 229 pounds in about 39 weeks. With those finite resources mentioned earlier, all of this will need to be done in a sustainable manner.

Aukerman says the very best producers in the world, farmers in the U.S., have made significant strides toward that goal and can get their hogs to 273 pounds in 28 weeks.

Still, to increase global production by 50 percent, “it's imperative that producers around the world have access to the innovation and technology that make this possible” and that they adopt the same goals as U.S. producers.

He says the best producers are making use of the best available technology and management practices. “That's why it's so important to continue to fight for producers to be able to utilize all the tools available to them and to continue to open the door and pathway for new technologies, new innovations to be released.”

Elanco's numbers suggest that if the most innovative practices are followed by farmers around the world, an estimated 434 million tons of feed could be saved, enough to fill railcars that could circle the Earth twice. In addition, the production could be accomplished on 262 million fewer acres of land, or about the land mass of Texas and California combined, and with 260 billion fewer gallons of water, the amount used by New York City and Philadelphia each year.

Another speaker at the Expo, Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board (NPB), said that while producers and consumers might have a different definition of sustainability, there is some common ground. “It's really the pigs, the people and the planet,” Sundberg said, adding that the same environmental concerns consumers have may often translate into bottom-line issues for producers trying to keep their businesses in the black.

Efforts to lower the impact of pork production are paying off. According to a NPB survey of practices in 1959 versus 2009, U.S. farmers are using 78 percent less land to raise hogs and 41 percent less water, while feeding more people. The effect of that efficiency is a 35 percent smaller carbon footprint for each pound of pork produced. Producers can see the impact their herds are having by using an environmental calculator available through NPB's website.

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