Faced with the task of feeding 9 billion people in the not too distant future, it is time to incorporate technology into food production, according to Rob Aukerman, president of U.S. operations – Elanco Animal Health. Aukerman was a featured speaker at the 2011 World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
Acknowledging such things as record oil prices, commodity price spikes, food security fears, trade restrictions and global recession, Aukerman explained that he believed food production could be broken into three main areas: food, choice and sustainability.
Aukerman said he believes food is a basic human right, and offered that hunger is the number one health problem globally. He noted that 2 in 5 children in London don’t get enough to eat. That number is 1 in 8 in Paris, 1 in 7 in Japan, and 1 in 5 in the U.S.
Elanco commissioned a study of international consumer attitudes, which spanned 26 countries, 92,000 consumers and ran from 2001 to 2010. The results showed that 95% of buyers buy food based on taste, cost and nutrition; 4% buy luxury/gourmet food, organic/local food and food from gardens. The remaining 1% buys food based on food bans, propositions and restrictions.
Aukerman said that it was important for industry to focus on meeting the needs of the first two categories of buyers that total 99%. “It’s important that we don’t look at this as a good food versus bad food scenario,” he said, noting that those buying for more general reasons as well as “choice” buyers were viable consumers that deserved industry attention. However, he said that the 1% of buyers buying for more political reasons often unduly influence changes in the market. Referring to buyer’s food preferences, he said, “We’ve got to get this data out.”
Technology ensures sustainability, Aukerman said. He cited Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Federation as saying that “We must freeze our footprint to feed 9 billion people.”
Aukerman cited two examples of the effects of technology on food production. He observed that the UK, in part because of EU regulations, has gone from being a major exporter to a major importer as a result of pulling back from using technology in food production. Conversely, Brazil has embraced technology and has become strong in its exports as a result.
“The need to move forward is urgent,” Aukerman said. He asked that those in the industry do three things: personalize the issue; have conversations and engage the food chain; and to support the 99%.
A white paper related to this presentation is available for download.