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Policy: Food vs. Feed

October 30, 2013
By: Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Today google + 
The dairy industry is a shining example of how conversions of low-quality foodstuffs can be turned into higher-value proteins.  

Study debunks myth that livestock production takes food from people

Attacks have been coming from all different directions claiming animal-source protein is not healthy to eat, as well as an inefficient way to feed consumers.

Groups such as the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) utilize every opportunity to promote their vegan agendas.

ABC took a huge chunk out of the beef supply with its reports that Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), called "pink slime," was unsafe for human consumption.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates is funding research for a plant-based alternative to meat on the premise of meeting an increasing global demand for animal protein.

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Bonus Content

Link to CAST study

Dairy farmers and other livestock producers bristle at these claims. And now, a new study by the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) puts science—and common sense—on their side. The study, Animal Feed Versus Human Food: Challenges and Opportunities in Sustaining Animal Agriculture Toward 2050, was released in September.

"There is this perception out there that if we feed corn to animals or if we grow livestock that we are essentially taking resources away from hungry people," says Jude Capper, chair of the study and professor of animal science at Montana State University and Washington State University. "So we wanted to be sure on a scientific base as to whether this was true, false or debatable. And as with most things, it is very debatable."

The study came about after she had blogged about the controversy surrounding the competition between humans and animals for food.

"One of the most often heard perceptions that we simply feed corn and soybean meal to cattle, for exam­ple, and people take little account the quantity of byproducts that we feed to those animals," Capper says.

For instance, byproducts such as distillers’ grains, cottonseed hulls, apple pomace and citrus pulp cannot be used in a human diet. In an animal’s feed ration, however, they provide sustenance that can efficiently be turned into meat, eggs or milk.

Larry Berger, head of the Department of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska, also participated in the study. "As we move forward, especially with ruminant animals, we can substitute some of the fibrous feeds that we get as a result of grain production for some of the more traditional feeds and still produce a very healthy, wholesome product in terms of meat and milk," he says.

When looking at feed resources, it is important to consider how much human edible protein we feed to animals relative to the amount of human edible protein we get out of the livestock production system.

"For example, in ruminants we get more human edible protein. We feed a pound of distillers’ grain or alfalfa silage and we get more than a pound of human edible protein ... per unit of protein going in," Berger says.

The dairy industry has been a shining example of how the conversion of feedstuffs that are poor for human consumption can return an even greater valued end product.

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - November 2013
RELATED TOPICS: Dairy, Sustainability, Issues

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