MANHATTAN, Kan. – A Kansas State University expert in bovine health declared war on world hunger in his speech Tuesday night on the K-State campus.
Dan Upson, a K-State professor in veterinary medicine and expert in bovine health, said that livestock production and consumption is a key ingredient in the fight against global hunger.
“Foods of animal origin are essential in feeding a growing population,” Upson said.
According to Upson, only 9 per cent of the earth’s surface can be used for producing food. Only 3 per cent can be plowed and used for crops such as corn and other grains. Grass lands are essential in producing food for people.
“The population is growing and we need more food for people. Ruminant animals are a vital part,” Upson said. Ruminant animals can break down chemical bonds in grass and produce animal proteins which can be consumed by humans. Cellulose, a compound in grasses, can only be metabolized by ruminant animals, Upson said. There are no enzymes in the human body that can break down cellulose bonds in grasses to metabolize food.
Upson explained the importance of proteins in the human diet for proper growth of bones and psychological development. He compared proteins in eggs, meat, and corn. Eggs are approximately 40 per cent protein, beef is approximately 33 per cent protein and corn is only 10 per cent protein. Animal meat products provide a higher quality protein diet, he said. Upson cites studies which have discovered that ancient people, who ate more meat, had stronger bones than people today. This is because their diet was high in essential proteins, he said.
Upson said humans must adopt new technology, such as growth hormones and genetic selection, in order to produce more food for an increasing population. “By using genetic selection, better nutrition, improved shelter and comfort, today we supply milk and cheese with 64 per cent fewer cows than the same amount in the 1940’s,” Upson said. “That is technology and that is what we need to do to feed a growing population.”
Bovine somatotropin, a growth hormone given to dairy cattle to increase the production of milk, has been critically examined and approved for livestock by the FDA. Upson said there is no difference in the quality of milk produced with hormones when compared to milk produced without hormones. Upson also said that beef grown with hormones is metabolically identical to naturally raised beef.
The use of hormones in livestock is a controversial topic, said Don Darfler, general manager of Little Apple Brewing Co. in Manhattan. Darfler said his restaurant features Natural Certified Angus Beef on its menu.
“We understand that there is an argument over the use of hormones in meat products,” Darfler said. “There are people who visit us that are conscious of what they eat and we offer them a choice.” Darfler said Little Apple sells about five to six Natural CAB K.C. strips per week, or about 5 per cent of the total strip steaks sold.
Upson said he sympathizes with people who do not want to eat livestock products produced using hormones, but he opposes rhetoric which says animal products are healthier than those produced with growth hormones are unhealthy. Advertisements which say natural animal products are healthier than those produced with hormones are not telling the truth, says Upson.
“It’s a myth perpetrated by people trying to get an edge in marketing, public relations and at the financial expense of the dairy producer and consumer,” said Upson. “It’s not science; it’s not real and it’s expensive.”
Technology has allowed producers to grow a healthy alternative to naturally raised livestock that is less expensive and better for the environment, Upson said. Conventionally raised livestock, livestock raised on a mixed diet of grains and grass, allow a producer to grow the same amount of beef in less time, on less space and with fewer environmental impacts, he added.
“I believe people have the right to choose what they want to eat and what they do not want to eat,” Upson said. “They do not have a right to eliminate the choices of the rest of us.”