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Animal Scientist Presents an Overview of Livestock Production

Posted by struscott | September 9, 2009

Keeping meat production efficient helps keep prices low, said Derek McLean at this week’s Ag and Food Systems seminar.

McLean, winner of the 2008-09 College Teaching Award, discussed the benefits of concentrated animal feeding operations.

Concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs are food production systems in which animals are kept and raised in confined situations. The feed is brought to the animals, rather then the animals grazing.

Derek McLean

“It is bringing a lot of animals into an intense situation,” said McLean. “It is about taking a young animal and turning it into an adult.”

McLean said there are many factors that go into livestock animal production. There are the animals themselves, the feed provided for the animals, genetics to ensure desirable traits, reproduction, animal health and behavior, waste management and marketing.

McLean said CAFOs allow us to have the least expensive meat in the world. We spend less than 10 percent of our disposable income on food. Meat consumption is beneficial to humans because of our similar makeup to animals, he said.

Livestock production is a multibillion dollar industry, McLean said. There were over two billion pounds of red meat produced in August 2009 alone.

“We in America like meat,” McLean said. “We’re omnivores.”

McLean said besides meat being produced in concentrated animal feeding operations, livestock is also raised in natural and organic production systems. Each type of production system has its own particular requirements.

He said natural production has three requirements: it must be minimally processed, and contain neither preservatives nor artificial ingredients.

In order to be considered organically produced, each segment of the production chain must be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Besides discussing current animal feeding operations, McLean also talked about the history of livestock production and how pastoral systems came into existence.

McLean said the development of civilization is dependent and linked to the use of animals for both food and clothing. Once plants and animals became domesticated, he said, people were able to stay in one place. There are several characteristics of animals that make them suitable for domestication, such as a flexible diet, recognition of a leader, highly fecund, and accepting of humans.

“Animals provide for basic human needs.” McLean said. “It is a beneficial relationship for the animals as well.”

Ag and Food Systems seminars are offered every Monday, 12:10 – 1:15 p.m. in CUE 318, and are open to all students.

by Whitney Parsons, CAHNRS Marketing and News intern

Washington State University’s Common Reading Program for the year has the entire campus and much of the state and nation talking about food and agriculture. What better way to highlight the cutting-edge science, research, teaching and outreach of Washington’s land-grant university and, at the same time, help to educate our students about what they eat and where it comes from?

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