Will beef survive? ‘It has to’, global conference told


James Nason, BEEF Central (Australia) 

May 19, 2020


THERE are compelling reasons why beef cattle will remain critical to not only feeding the planet but also protecting it, a global livestock conference was told overnight.


The Alltech One conference held annually in Lexington, Kentucky, is one of the world’s largest annual livestock industry gatherings, typically attracting 3500 attendees from more than 70 countries.


This year the week-long event which involves dozens of expert speakers has shifted entirely online, which has seen more than 21,500 people from 126 countries register.


Day one presenters who spoke overnight Australian-time included former NASA astronaut and US Air Force colonel Cady Coleman, who shared her recent experience spending 180 days working on the International Space Station to emphasise the importance of teamwork and staying focused in challenging circumstances, a timely message as the world grapples with a global pandemic.


‘Ruminants are not going anywhere’


Another session of key relevance to Beef Central’s readership featured Alltech’s ruminant research group director Dr. Vaughn Holder, who provided a range of critical insights into the actual environmental hoofprint of beef, which contrasts dramatically with the tone public messaging suggesting beef is bad for the environment.


Posing the question “Will Beef Survive?”, Dr Holder said the answer was that “it absolutely has to”.


As the global population grows by another two to three billion people in the next 30 years, our world will have to produce as much food in that time as has been produced in 10,000 years of human civilisation so far.


Where will that food come from?


Only 4 percent of the earth’s surface is cultivatable, and able to produce plant based foods such as grain and soybeans.


Expanding aquaculture in our oceans will provide part of the answer.


But utilising the large swathe of cellulose that exists across global rangelands, which can only be converted into highly digestible, highly utilisable sources of amino acids by ruminant animals, will be central to the solution of meeting rapidly increasing world food demand in future.


“There have been many experiments that have tried to convert rangeland to cultivatable land and those experiments have not been very successful,” Dr Holder said.


“Cellulose is the most abundant utilisable carbon source on the planet, and to get the energy out of that carbon source the world needs ruminant animals.


“That is why I say ruminants are not going anywhere.”


Often-made claims that beef production is highly inefficient compared to other livestock also failed to stack up under closer scrutiny, he explained.


“When you look at pounds of feed produced per unit of product coming out you can see been takes 14 pounds of feed to product 1 pound of beef,” he said.


“But 12 pounds of that 14 pounds is grass is something that none of other species on this list can practically use.”


Only ruminants can ‘upcycle protein’ ...


Methane claims against cattle are overblown …


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