A SWOT analysis for animal agriculture

J.J. Jones of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture says the industry should look at its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Roy Graber Headshot
J.J. Jones
J.J. Jones
Courtesy Animal Agriculture Alliance

The greater animal agriculture industry continues to compete with alternative proteins – both in terms of reaching the consumers, but also in terms of attracting investors.

In order to help the industry get a better grasp on the things it is doing right and the things it can do better to reach these people, J.J. Jones, executive director of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) offered his own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Jones shared his thoughts at the 2024 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit on May 9 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Strengths

Animal protein ­– whether it is chicken, turkey, eggs, pork, beef, eggs or dairy – is highly desired by consumers, Jones said.

“People have a desire to have animal-derived proteins in their diets, not only from a physical standpoint, but also mental,” he said.

Jones spoke of an acquaintance who was exploring vegetarianism and veganism. He did not challenge her personal decision, but did ask if she was taking vitamins and supplements to continue to have the health benefits animal protein products provide. Animal protein is a “complete protein,” he said, pointing out that it contains nutrients that are important to good physical and cognitive health.

Another strength of animal protein is its cultural history. An example of that is that meat products have traditionally been served at celebrations.

Weaknesses

One weakness of the industry, which especially can affect its ability to attract investors, is a lack of innovation.

“Sometimes, we’re afraid to try new things,” he said. But Jones believes it is better to try and fail, than fail to try. “I would like to challenge us to try new things more quickly,” he added.

He also stressed that animal agriculture industry is too scientific and uses jargon too often. Do consumers or investors know what you mean when you say “feeder cattle” or “pullet?”

He also says animal agriculture is too segmented and fragmented. “Sometimes, we can’t even agree,” he said.

Opportunities

There are certainly opportunities for the industry with a growing population of consumers, but wealth is also building in many geographic areas. With increased wealth comes more people willing to invest.

Jones pointed out that in 2021, 9 out of 10 of the top food agri-tech investments were with alternative proteins. And from 2019 to 2022, agri-tech investments nearly tripled. As investors continue to have interest in agriculture, the animal agriculture sector has the opportunity to claim some of those investment dollars.

To make the most of the opportunity to gain and retain consumers, the industry needs to “give consumers permission to enjoy animal proteins.”

“It’s been shared many times … people do want to consumer our pro0teucts. We just have to meet them where they’re at, and give them that emotional permission to enjoy our products.”

Threats

Animal agriculture faces continual threats of ballot measures and legislation that can be a negative disruption. Those threats don’t appear to be going away.

Another threat is that of climate change. Jones stressed that he wasn’t going to try to say who is responsible for it, but he says there is definite proof that climate change exists.

“We’re seeing zoonotic diseases move into regions and countries that they’ve never been in before because the climate is ripe for mutations or the survivability of those bacteria, those viruses, those fungi, so we have to acknowledge that climate change is happening. It’s going to affect not only zoonotic diseases, it’s going to affect the feed production or the welfare and well-being of those animals,” he said.

Page 1 of 1589
Next Page