Dennis Sun: The Food Supply

Columnist Dennis Sun writes, "When talking about the nation’s food supply, people might look at you like you’re crazy because there is always food at the grocery store."

Dennis Sun

May 10, 20243 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

When talking about the nation’s food supply, people might look at you like you’re crazy because there is always food at the grocery store.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were some shortages on grocery shelves, especially at the meat counter. Other products, like baby formula, were also in short supply, but this was due to a manufacturing issue – most of the short supply was caused by distribution issues.

Lately, we have heard about food shortages linked to climate change. I know Earth’s climate has always been changing, but I’ve never figured out the cause of these changes. I think most of it is just natural.

Those involved in agriculture realize the need for an increased food supply to fill the needs of a more populated Earth, as well as the needs of a growing middle class. The world’s agriculture industry has been very successful in improved genetic selection and modern technology to meet the world’s food supply.

Raising livestock and farming has come under fire recently as a cause of climate change, and there is a push to do away with them. While some countries have been successful in eliminating these practices, others have proven they are not the cause of climate change using improved management.

Take Iceland for instance – a country of glaciers, lava rock and a five-month growing season. They have learned to be somewhat sustainable. It is true they have to import some food into the country, but using large greenhouses and barns, they have established quite a produce, horse and sheep industry.

I had lunch in a huge greenhouse that grew tomatoes. One greenhouse had 37,000 tomato plants growing in it. There was no soil to speak of, just a two foot by two foot box around a foot high for the plant’s roots. Fully-grown plants were around 10 meters long. Most of the plant was horizontal, with the growing end vertical.

A drip system with minerals and plant food in the water dripped on the root boxes. Heat for the greenhouses came from shallow geological hot water wells, and electricity came from steam generated by local geysers.

I was there in April and there were oranges, pineapples and all of the fruits and vegetables one would find in grocery stores.

While most of the horses stayed outside and were fed hay, the sheep were in big barns all winter. They told me disease was not an issue with their genetics. If an animal leaves the island, they are never allowed back.

Some in different countries are looking for alternative meats or plant-based meats to be a protein source. It started with a lot of fanfare, but lately, interest has dropped quite a bit after people started reading the list of ingredients and realized beef, pork and lamb are healthier to eat.

Currently, the global protein market is dominated by animal-sourced protein and totals about $2 trillion in revenue annually. In almost every country there are lands best suited for grazing.

Proper grazing is a good tool to improve those lands.

With this amount of revenue to go around, animal-based protein should be here to stay. Grazing sure doesn’t need to be so political.

Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available in print and online.

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Dennis Sun

Agriculture Columnist