This week, I’m prepping to speak on a panel for the United Nations Food Systems Summit. The event will focus on the future of safe, nutritious food, advancements in production agriculture, “sustainable” diets, systems changes due to COVID-19, climate-friendly foods, and creating a system that is resilient to global stressors.
The session I will be speaking on is the Global Resource Use Efficiency for Protein Production in Food Systems. I’ll be joined on the panel by Vaughn Holder, Alltech; Sara Place, Elanco Animal Health; Tryon Wickersham, Texas A&M University; and Jude Capper, Harper Adams University.
Our panel discussion is titled, “Global Resource Use Efficiency for Protein Production in Food Systems,” and we’ll be discussing the future of protein security and how to maximize the efficiency of production resources without unintended social, cultural, and environmental consequences.
Admittedly, I’m a little intimidated being the sole rancher on this panel, and perhaps even the only cattle rancher speaking at the Summit. However, I’m grateful to be entering the proverbial lion’s den at this Summit, so that I can share the countless ways that cattle producers improve the land, care for their livestock, and ultimately provide a safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef product to feed a hungry planet.
In short talking points, here is what I’m hoping attendees and the United Nations will walk away with after listening to my perspective from our American cattle ranch:
1. Calorie-for-calorie, beef is a natural, wholesome and nutrient-dense food. Packed with protein and 10 essential nutrients, it truly is a superfood when we look at beef from a nutrition perspective.
From an economic perspective, in developing nations, when people’s disposable incomes rise and middle-class populations grow, families seek to improve their rice and beans diets by adding animal proteins and fats, including delicious beef. And in rich nations like ours, ranchers support local communities by providing jobs, taxes, and a presence in rural areas, which benefits and supports schools, small businesses, and so much more.
3. From a global food systems outlook, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to growing and producing food. What I can grow in the rolling hills alongside the James River in South Dakota is much different than what can be grown in the African desert, the South American rain forest, or the California coast.
By matching the production system to the environment is the best way to utilize our natural resources and ensure that every acre is put to use instead of sitting barren and wasted. In South Dakota, as an example, where cattle outnumber people four-to-one, it’s for good reason. Our landscape is ideal for growing crops for livestock feed, and our grasslands would sit empty if ruminant animals like cattle were not allowed to graze these pastures and upcycle this cellulosic material into nutrient-dense beef.
4. We can talk ways we can improve our environmental practices all day long, but first, let’s celebrate what cattle ranchers have excelled at for hundreds of years. With conservation practices such as planting and grazing cover crops, rotational grazing, installing water pipelines to allow for better grazing management systems, utilizing by-products of crop production for animal feeds that would otherwise end up in the landfills, and so much more, ranchers were “green” way before being green was cool.
What else would you add as a talking point for this panel discussion? I’ll let the experts share their knowledge and expertise on things like greenhouse gas emissions in the panel, and for my part, I really want to focus on real-world ranching applications that folks should know about.
If you had the chance to speak to the United Nations, what would you tell them about the beef cattle industry? Please, share in the comments section below.
For complete details on our panel discussion, here is a synopsis from Alltech:
"As the global population rises and become more affluent, more net protein is needed to match an increase in demand of almost 100% by 2050. However, the amount of land we have to produce this protein will not change. Approximately 4% of the earth’s surface is appropriate for crop cultivation.
“Currently, global protein production already does not meet the average protein requirements of the global populace. A recent data review in Global Food Security journal shows us that when total protein intake is corrected for poor digestibility and amino acid composition of plant based proteins, that none of the 103 countries reviewed are currently meeting the protein requirements of their population (Moughan, 2021). Another recent review by the FAO states that 86% of global livestock feed is classified as inedible to humans, pointing to the ability of livestock in general, and cattle in particular to convert human inedible raw materials into high quality food (particularly protein) for people with unparalleled nutritional density.
“To ensure future food security, we must consider all options for producing high-quality protein to feed a population of 9.7bn by 2050. Whilst there is excitement created by alternative proteins, many new proteins are marketed by simply repackaging existing nutrients into plant-based meats and milk products, resulting in no net supply increase in protein. Simultaneously, calls for reductions in animal agriculture could create a protein deficit that cannot be overcome by growing crops due to the limitations of available arable land and water. Join a robust conversation on future protein security, focusing on maximizing the efficiency of production resources without unintended social, cultural and environmental consequences.”
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.