Thoughts from San Diego

I’m writing this delayed blog sitting in the airport at San Diego where I just finished attending the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting. This morning Dr Howard Hill, former COO for Iowa Select and currently vice president of the National Pork Producers Council gave a presentation on the challenges to the US Pork industry as viewed from the NPPC perspective.

One of the more interesting tidbits in his presentation was a look at recent consumer research regarding the vegan/vegetarian movement. From all of the popular press one would assume ma this is a growing lifestyle choice by Americans. However, when they do a 2 week tracking of all food consumption by consumers a different perspective arises. The latest data says 97.1% of the US population in the survey follow a non-vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Only 2.9% of US consumers are active vegans/vegetarians, a relatively constant percentage over the years. My conclusion – just because there is a lot of press on the topic doesn’t mean the adoption of the lifestyle is increasing.

Another interesting comment from Dr Hill – the fastest growing food segment in the US is not bacon (as much as we might want that to be true). It’s yogurt, another product of animal agriculture.

Finally, up until a few years ago, egg production per laying hen world wide increased about 1.2 eggs/hen per year. In the past few years, this trend has reversed and productivity is declining at 1.0 egg/hen/yr. Dr Hill cited disease, public policy (think cage free and other mandated production issues) and lack of innovation.

If the world population will continue to increase until at least 2050 we need public policy and innovation to be partners with animal agriculture, not in opposition to animal ag.

Next week I’ll be at the Midwest Animal Science meetings in Des Moines where I’ll get a look at innovation results that will be applied to production in coming months/years.

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