A Growing Population: Chance or Challenge?

By Dr. Martin Alm
Second Vice President, World Renderers Organization

The 5th Global Feed and Food Congress was held in Antalya, Turkey, in mid-April. Due to the opening of Expo 2016 in Antalya the same week, the United States State Department issued travel warnings for the city (as well as for Istanbul and the area of the Syrian border). This was probably the reason why many Americans and Asians cancelled their participation in the congress, which was a pity, especially for the latter, as Asia was often identified as the booming continent (besides Africa) that will demand more food in the future. This is not only due to its current high population, but also to an ongoing growth in population and wealth. Fulfilling this demand was seen as a huge challenge; many presenters stressed the magical number of nine billion people globally by 2050. Yet what does this number mean? How does one comprehend nine billion?

Professor Leo den Hartog, Trouw Nutrition, gave a perfect introduction by saying, “When my parents were born, there were one billion people on earth. When I was born, there were already three billion. Now we have seven billion and in 2050, nine billion.” Hartog predicted that the production of meat and dairy must increase by 75 percent and 53 percent, respectively, to meet the demand, which cannot be met by expansion of arable land but by efficiency. He said that on average worldwide productivity of farm animals is 30 to 40 percent below their genetic potential because of suboptimal conditions and health status. Matthijs Mondria from Rabobank used another example: If China used the Dutch feeding regime, 54 million metric tons less of pig feed would be needed, or put in a different perspective, 13 million metric tons more pork meat would be produced with the same amount of feed.

Following his introductory words, Hartog stressed that not only has the world population and its demand grown, there has also been a change of perception and consciousness about food during the last 70 years. From 1945 to 1960, the question was, do we have enough food to feed all the people? This was also the case during the centuries before: food security was priority number one. After 20 years of modernization and rationalization, questions about environment, antibiotics, and animal welfare arose (1980-2000). Due to several food, feed, and the ongoing bovine spongiform encephalopathy crises, food safety was a hot topic for the consumer, followed by the question on food quality. Now, over the last few years, sustainability is a driving force, which means the question has returned of can we feed our children and grandchildren in the future. Dr. Marcos Jank, BRF Asia-Pacific, used the same timeline in his presentation but emphasized that not all countries went through these different stages. Underdeveloped countries still care about food security. China and India are in the modernization phase and Mexico has just now begun looking at environmental issues. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, most European Union countries, and Japan are in the most modern phase.

Hartog also warned that in 2050 more people will die due to antimicrobial resistance than by cancer, meaning a big step back for food safety. The feed industry must focus on that too, especially with regard to feed additives. “The more, the better” is an outdated wisdom and must be transferred to the developing countries as well. This discussion should be closely followed and implications for rendered products need to be identified. Perhaps research in this area is needed.

Further workshops at the congress focused on animal nutrition, markets and trade, global regulations and feed trade facilitation, biosecurity along the food and feed chain, and sharing good manufacturing practices globally. On behalf of the World Renderers Organization (WRO), this author gave a presentation on sustainable aquaculture, stressing that the use of fats and proteins from land animals in aquaculture is not only a nutritional advantage but also has sustainable benefits. This includes many fish species of all kinds, warm and cold, fresh and marine water.

In the final discussion round of the congress, Knut Nesse, Nutreco, concluded that feeding 160 more people per minute is and will be a huge challenge for the world. More people will ask for animal proteins and, due to higher income and the creation of a new middle class, will ask for more than ever before. More demand for meat, milk, eggs, fish, and so on means ongoing growth for feed manufacturing.

How does all this affect the rendering industry? Renderers still play an important role of avoiding food losses by turning animal by-products into valuable commodities. This is what renderers have already been doing for centuries. More need for animal protein means more animals and more animal by-products. Changing eating habits produce even more by-products to process. Following Nesse´s conclusion, it was evident the future will see prosperous times. When the new growth occurs in countries where the WRO is currently not present, there will be a need for knowledge for optimal processing. WRO manuals are already a good start to help renderers worldwide.

Finally, renderers take social responsibility to keep nutrients from animal by-products in the food chain and avoid wasting natural resources. This stresses the importance of the rendering industry´s mission.

June 2016 RENDER | back