What about Tom & Anya? Alltech International Symposium focuses on food, environment & the futurePrint
By Kayla Jentz
Over 3,000 delegates at Alltech’s 28th Annual International Symposium were introduced to Tom and Anya, two young children who face a world of challenges and opportunities.
“This Symposium gives an opportunity for people from all over the world to think about the future, to begin to focus on what needs to happen to ensure that the future is bright for our kids and grandkids,” said Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson in his welcome speech.
The first challenge, food, was highlighted by a discussion between Alltech’s 2012 Medal of Excellence winner and father of the fast food industry, Governor John Y. Brown, and Outback Steakhouse co-founder Tim Gannon.
“One of the biggest things at Outback is that we’ve grown to 28 countries, and we’re serving about 140 billion customers per year. About 55% of our menu is beef, 45% is non-red meat items, and the source of commodities is getting tighter,” said Gannon of the challenges facing Outback. “You see diseases like ‘mad cow’ and things like that scare you, but our real threat is supply and how we can get a safe product to our customer.”
Brown and Gannon talked about the importance of high-quality ingredients to make a high-quality menu item, and discussed the shift to all-natural ingredients.
Dairy sessions talk environment
Of the 13 dairy sessions held, the main focus was sustainability and dairy’s carbon footprint.
Jim Ostrom, part-owner of Milk Source (Wisconsin), answered the question “Is the 20,000 cow farm sustainable?”
Ostrom and his partners started 18 years ago with just 160 cows. Today they have about 20,000 cows and just as many heifers, spread across four dairies and a calf-raising location.
“20,000 cows is sustainable,” Ostrom said. “My grandfather’s farm didn’t have any manure containment, no nutrient management programs, and not much regard for the environment,” said Ostrom. “The old model is not sustainable. The modern model, whether big or small, is to have containment and nutrient management systems in place.”
Ostrom showed a slide of the more than 35 permits they had to apply for Rosendale Dairy alone. The approval process cost the dairy more than $1 million in consultant, legal and other fees. Ostrom said larger dairies are held to a much higher standard than the smaller farms via regulations.
‘Green’ milk could be the future
Not literally the color green, “green milk” refers to milk with a low carbon footprint, according to Mike Hutjens of the University of Illinois.
Hutjens said that he doubts it will be required, but someday we’ll probably see a label for “green milk,” as greenhouse gas (GHG) levels are already being listed on food products in other parts of the world.
“Wal-Mart is going to have to make a decision now,” said Hutjens after telling the audience that recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) reduces GHG by 8%. “Do you want natural milk or do you want green milk?”
Hutjens recommended other “food for thought” ideas for producers to lower their carbon footprint, keeping feed efficiency in mind.
Food vs. technology
Panelist Sean Rickard, senior lecturer in business economics, Cranfield University, United Kingdom, summed up the food vs. technology debate.
“Putting science and farmers together in the world meant that food production kept pace with growing population,” he said. “Over the last 10 years or so, particularly in developed countries, we took our eye off the ball.
“We played down science, we withdrew money from scientific bodies and we focused much more on celebrity chefs and those aspects of food, and now we’re running behind,” he explained. “We’re going to have to do over the next 40 years what we did over the last 50 years. We’re going to have to double food production, and we’re going to have to speed up our association between farming and science if we’re going to do it.”
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