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Performance changes in poultry and livestock following 50 years of genetic selection

Gerald B. Havenstein



Not only has the performance of our livestock and poultry changed, but many aspects of the world have changed as well. Before providing evidence as to how quantitative genetics has affected US and worldwide animal production, we need to begin with a little background on the food-animal industries, and specifically how meat and egg consumption has changed over the past half-century.


The animal industries and the types of animals we produce for human food are very different today from what they were 50 years ago. Not only animal production has changed, but also the human population has changed in terms of the consumption of animal foodstuffs.


The US has experienced a dramatic change during the past 50 years in the types and amounts of meat being consumed, as well as in the types and amounts of animals grown to meet consumer demands.


 From 1930 to 1950, pork was the meat of choice. During the 1950s through the 1980s beef was the most heavily consumed meat, but from 1985 until today, poultry has become the most consumed meat in the USA.


Since about 1993, more broiler meat has been consumed each year than any other type of meat.


Meat consumption tripled during the past 50 years. The increased production and resultant increase in animal waste is a result of the animal industries' response to meet increased consumer demands.


If the US human population continues to increase at a similar rate over the next 50 years, input resources will become increasingly taxed and it will become more and more difficult to maintain meat production for this level of demand in the future.


The review further provides feed conversion data and a consumption overview for broilers, swine, turkey, beef and dairy.


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Article made possible through the contribution of Lohmann Information

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