The potential for improving conversion rates of feed to food is an important issue affecting future food supply and particularly the ability to meet the projected increased demand for animal source foods. Large improvements have occurred in recent decades due to science-based technologies. Between 1957 and 1991, growth rate of broiler chickens is estimated to have increased more than threefold, while feed required per unit of gain decreased by an estimated 35%. In the United States, average milk yield per cow has more than doubled in the past 50 years, resulting in a marked increase in system efficiency. Global data on feed grain use and meat, milk, and egg production indicate an improvement of about 15% in conversion rates in the decade from the 1980s to 1990s, in both developed and developing countries. The gap in conversion rates for total feed inputs between developed and developing countries, shown in Table 1, indicates a large potential for further increases in conversion rates in countries where current rates are low, as improved technologies are implemented. These include improved genetics, health care, management, and nutrition. Improvements in both the extent and efficiency of utilization of human-inedible materials as animal feed will also contribute.
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