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Product, Service & Design Innovation
More Sustainable Animal Protein Is Possible Through Innovative Breeding and Genetics

A blend of technology, sustainability practices and advanced genetics that is helping revolutionize the beef and dairy industries is emerging to address our global protein-deficiency problem.

One billion.

That’s the estimated number of people around the world who are protein deficient, a situation that can worsen physical and mental health conditions. And as the world’s population grows and the demand for high-quality protein rises, the crisis will grow even more serious.

In Central Africa and South Asia, 30 percent of children are impacted by severe protein deficiency. For them, and countless others in similar circumstances all over the world, we must improve the production of safe and affordable protein to feed our communities.

Fortunately, a solution to this problem is emerging — a unique blending of technology, sustainability practices and advanced genetics that is playing a key role in helping revolutionize the beef and dairy industries. Farmers and scientists are working together to develop more resilient communities built on viable food systems — which, resultingly, are having a positive impact on local economies, the environment and society as a whole.

The key to success in this endeavor starts at the very heart of many rural communities: farms and ranches. They are responsible for supplying most meals on our plates — as 86 percent of US agricultural products are produced on family farms or ranches, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. With the right tools and technologies, we can enable farmers and ranchers to responsibly develop animal protein faster and more efficiently to meet the world’s growing food demands.

It might be strange to think about — for many of us, food and technology may be an odd pairing. But the opportunities are endless in applying technology-driven innovations to breeding and production, which are opening doors of opportunity throughout our food systems. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are starting to see consumers become more and more comfortable with technology in the food supply chain so long as it is increasing sustainability and enhancing animal health and wellbeing.

And the most impactful innovations are doing just that. Creative solutions in bovine and porcine genetics and breeding methodologies are exciting and highly practical technologies that are reaping benefits throughout our food supply chain. These technologies are underpinned by deep knowledge of DNA and decades of research and development that can help us determine which animals will produce high-quality meat or milk before the animal is even born. This is enabling us to deliver better protein to market — faster and at scale — while conserving important resources including water, feed and land, and supporting farmer livelihoods.

We are already seeing the tangible impact of these genetic solutions in the form of beef-on-dairy breeding. This process involves the crossbreeding of dairy cows with carefully selected beef bulls. The result? Healthier and more efficient herds that contain more valuable calves. Calves that will contribute to the future of the herd and produce both dairy products and beef cross calves that will produce higher-quality beef — which helps build a more sustainable and economically feasible food system.

Beef-on-dairy can help sustainably feed our communities while delivering on the demand for high-quality taste and tenderness that consumers love. Also, by coupling this practice with technology advancements that are reducing the amount of climate-changing emissions generated by livestock, we are able to produce larger volumes of protein while minimizing the amount of cattle-producing methane gas.

These are but two of numerous examples of how technology is helping accelerate progress in the animal-protein supply chain. While we’ve made incredible strides the past 50 years, we still have much to do to encourage broader understanding and acceptance of these safe, effective yet often misunderstood techniques.

Animal protein is an important part of human diets, livelihoods, culture and heritage. We must continue to push for acceptance of new and proven technologies in our food supply chain, while investing in research to identify new ways genetic improvements can help adequately feed our growing world with high-caliber beef that is efficient, profitable and sustainable.