Ag Outlook 2022: Animals are the solution to the world’s problems


KANSAS CITY, MO. — Every year the annual Ag Outlook Forum, organized by Agri-Pulse Communications and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, welcomes speakers from diverse agricultural backgrounds and expertise, and this year did not disappoint. Held in Kansas City, Mo., on Sept. 26, the forum’s agenda included a presentation about livestock sustainability by Jeffrey Simmons, president and chief executive officer of animal health company Elanco. Simmons shared his vision for a better future by 2030, environmentally, economically and nutritionally, which he believes is possible through more sustainable livestock production.

“I believe animals are the missing piece to the world’s problems right now,” he said.

Animals are the connecting link between the three major global issues Simmons pointed out — the health crisis, food insecurity and climate change. According to Simmons, 60% of the world is either not getting enough calories or is consuming the wrong calories. He added that one in eight people face hunger, and one in five die of a poor diet. As for climate change, “this is becoming a top-three agenda for every continent in the world right now,” Simmons noted.

Not long ago, proponents of alternative protein were looking to plant-based products as the solution; however, the outlook for these products is not as favorable as it once was. By 2027, Simmons projects meat alternatives will compose only 1% of total protein consumption, having little affect over long-term environmental impact. Nutritionally, plant-based products lack certain nutrients only found in meat-based products.

“Studies are saying, ‘You know what, actually animal-based protein is more nutritious than plant-based,'” Simmons said. “And if you think about it, it’s a little bit like vitamin supplements and how they work. You actually get that absorption much more naturally in the body taken by fruits and vegetables than you do by the supplement.

Other proposed solutions include reducing herd size dramatically or moving to synthetic beef, both of which Simmons does not see as viable options for a better environment in the next 10 to 20 years.

Instead, Simmons suggested that a focus on methane reduction is key. Carbon dioxide and methane being the two greenhouse gases, Simmons points to the latter as the opportunity to shrink emissions.

“Carbon dioxide lasts 1,000 years, methane, as you all know, lasts 12 years, but the big thing about methane is it’s got a high potency,” Simmons said. “It can actually grab the heat and show 25% to actually reduce it. So it only takes a little to actually drop. If you think about greenhouse gases, methane is about 18%. We’re a third of that. With our 6% of the methane contribution, if we reduce in the cattle industry 20-30% of methane, we slow the cooling because of the potency of that. We hold the keys to doing this.”

Without support from consumers, the industry’s efforts are futile. Consumers look to taste, cost, nutrition and, especially when it comes to the protein sector, choice whenever making a food purchase. Simmons urges stakeholders to craft a narrative for consumers who now more than ever are looking to make environmentally-conscious purchasing decisions.

“Our simple narrative to them is this: Don’t try to get rid of us,” Simmons said. “Cows and livestock can actually be a big part of the solution. Climate neutral farms are possible when we can capture the greenhouse gases we create and create no footprint, and at the same time help create better nutrition, less obesity, less diabetes, feed the world and help cool the climate by 2030.”



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