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Dispelling myths about animal agriculture

Misinformation about the effects of the livestock sector hurt the entire value chain and harm consumer trust in agriculture.

Beyond the reports of animal protein production and consumer trends, this, Feed International’s Top Feed Companies issue, offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the scope of the inputs required to satisfy the growing global demand for animal proteins. This demand is on an upward trend much like the growing feed production volumes of the 96 manufacturers featured in the report. Many are integrators, some are cooperatives, others remain privately held, and the companies are scattered around the world, but they have one thing in common: they manufactured over 1 million metric tons in 2013. They also represent more than 36 percent of all of the world’s compound feed production.

As animal agriculture grows, it has become increasingly important for agribusiness to dispel the many myths and smear campaigns headed by the animal rights activists. The key is to combat the widespread misinformation that the consumer — far removed from agriculture — has come to believe, and remain honest and transparent about the food the livestock consumes. Let’s face it, between foodborne diseases, antibiotics, environmental concerns and everything else in between – it’s no secret, animal agriculture needs to regain the public’s trust in all corners of the world.

While misinformation oftentimes cannot be traced back to its original source, this is not the case in when it comes to the misconception that animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all of the world’s transportation combined. 

In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released the report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” a paper that reached far and wide with the message that 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the livestock sector. The problem, as Dr. Frank Mitloehner, livestock air quality specialist with UC-Davis, points out, was that the original methodology was flawed. Specifically, the researcher failed to consider the inputs and life cycle associated with all facets of transportation. Eventually, the FAO retracted the statement as did the report’s author; however, in Mitloehner’s words,“the horse had already left the barn.”

Even today, this inaccurate figure continues to be cited. This highlights the importance of advocating for the positive gains feed and additive technology contributes to animal agriculture through improved performance, decreasing inputs and limiting methane emissions through nutrition.

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