Better pigs, over more pigs

DES MOINES – If the world’s population reaches 9 billion by 2050, it will mean annually 710 million more pigs will be needed, beyond the current 1.38 billion, without new production techniques.

But Elanco thinks it has a plan to meet the food need without that many additional pigs.

Elanco is a division of Eli Lilly, headquartered in Greenfield, Ind., that develops products to improve animal health and food production.

Elanco has initiated a public awareness campaign called “Chew on This” to outline its plan and to get people involved in food distribution within their communities.

Rob Auckerman, president of U.S. operations for Elanco, told media and producers on Thursday at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines that “with new innovation, farmers can produce 50 percent more pounds of pork, with just 1.7 billion pigs.”

Without innovation, Auckerman said, meeting the 2050 demand would take:

Feed: From 712 million tons to 1,076 million tons.

Land: From 430 million acres to 647 million acre.

Water: From 426 billion gallons to 644 billion gallons.

“Those numbers are unacceptable for us,” Auckerman said.

Auckerman said Elanco’s vision meets the increased world demand – 12 ounces of pork per week for each human – while lowering farming’s carbon footprint and using less feed, land and water than by adding 710 pigs under current production methods.

“The answer is in production,” Auckerman said. “Not numbers.”

Worldwide, he said, the average pig takes 39 weeks to reach 229 pounds. But, Auckerman said, Elanco’s vision is to grow each pig to 282 pounds in 25 weeks.

Resources saved, he said, under this plan compared to no innovation would include:

Feed: 484 million tons less, which would fill enough rail cars to circle the globe twice.

Land: 262 million acres, equivalent land the size of Texas and California combined.

Water: 260 billion gallons, equaling the annual household consumption of New York City and Philadelphia combined.

More skills needed

Dr. Mike Brumm, of Brumm Swine Consultancy, of Mankato, Minn., said to meet the 25-week deadline, feeder pigs will have to gain 2 pounds on 2 pounds of feed per day.

“We’re getting close,” Brumm said. “It will come.”

He said to get a pig to 286 pounds in 25 weeks, “it’s going to take people with better skills in animal ag production.”

Saying that pork is the preferred protein of choice worldwide, Brumm said raising more livestock faster will bolster rural economies and increase employment.

Auckerman said Elanco will assist the pork industry in preventive medicine, disease treatment and control and expand support for products and services.

“The biggest change this will bring,” Brumm said, is “the private sector will have to step even more forward in funding innovations, because public funds are going elsewhere.”