Our Global Population: 9 Billion People

Our Global Population: 9 Billion People

By Jason Kosovski

The challenge of feeding a growing population must be addressed by improvements in agricultural efficiency and technology.

Can Greater Efficiency Avert Looming Food Crisis?

Nine billion people. For most of us that is an unfathomable number, but according to United Nations estimates, that is roughly what the world population will be in 2050.

To be a bit more precise, the U.N. actually predicts that the world population will be closer to 9.6 billion in 2050, a staggering number of people who will need to be clothed, housed, and most importantly, fed.

For Dale Woerner, Colorado State University assistant professor of Animal Sciences, the challenge of feeding a growing population must be addressed by improvements in agricultural efficiency and technology. By some estimates, the global population of 2050 will need 70 percent to 100 percent more food than is produced today. Given the limited amount of resources and land, there is a growing recognition that increasing the amount of safe and affordable food by 70 percent to 100 percent will not be achievable with the resources and technology currently available.

Woerner’s research expertise is in fresh meat quality, nutrient content of beef, veal, and lamb, meat cookery, instrument grading, food safety systems, fresh meat shelf-life, and innovative carcass fabrication.

“When we talk about sustainability, I believe that at the core of sustainability is an implicit understanding that we must increase our agricultural efficiency,” according to Woerner. “It is our duty as scientists to facilitate efficiency by evaluating technologies to ensure that they are safe for the consumer and the environment, comport with our moral and ethical values, and are cognizant of animal welfare.”

At the core of Woerner’s research is recognition that the looming food crisis is real. His work focuses on assessing innovations in meat production as well as educating consumers who, at least in the United States, waste considerable amounts of food each and every day. Woerner is certain that in 20 to 50 years consumers will not be able to throw away as much food as they do today.

Through education, Woerner believes that consumers can move away from what he terms as a “disposable society;” can reduce portion sizes, leading to less food waste; and can understand the benefits of meat consumption as part of a regular diet.

popgrowth-2
The U.N. predicts the world population in
2050
will be close to
9.6 Billion

plate
By some estimates, the global population of
2050
will need
70-100%
more food than is produced today.

pop-clock
in 20-50
years
consumers will not be able to throw away as much food as they do today.

“We know that there are real health benefits to meat consumption, but like anything else, excessive consumption or a poorly balanced diet can lead to problems,” said Woerner.  “We need to make sure that the meat we produce is nutritious by promoting lean cuts, and we need to educate consumers as to how meat can and should be a part of a well-rounded diet.”

Woerner’s work extends beyond the lab and even beyond the classroom. He advises the CSU Meat Judging Team, has served on several National 4H committees, and has been a member of the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Coaches Association for more than 10 years. Most recently, he received Vance Publishing Corporation’s inaugural 40 Under 40 in Agriculture Award for his leadership and commitment in advancing the cause of doubling food production by 2050.

As the world population continues to grow, Woerner’s research will become more prominent and will take on an increasing sense of urgency. If the world inherited by our children and grandchildren is to be one in which the populace is provided safe and affordable food, then science must help facilitate efficiency and educate consumers everywhere.

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