Saturday, August 28, 2010

Louisville, TN: Dr. Bill Backus, retired animal science professor

The first words out of Dr. Bill Backus's mouth were"Well, you're damn yankees!" upon spying my Connecticut license plates. That aside, Dr. Backus spent the next couple of hours talking farming with us. He is a retired animal husbandry/meat science professor at the University of Tennessee and he thinks genetics in animal rearing has been a boon for livestock farmers.

Geneticists have figured out how to breed meat animals that have more muscle and less fat, and that grow incredibly fast. While a lot of consumers don't think they appreciate their meat being scientifically controlled, some of the changes are simply selective breeding, a process that has taken place since agriculture began. When farmers began having to increase their farm sizes in order to survive, they ran out of room in the southeast and many of the feedlots and slaughterhouses moved to states like Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, etc. It made sense to move the animals closer to the areas where grain production was highest.

Livestock farmers in the southeast could no longer afford to ship their animals out west unless they were huge operations, and many of them started diversifying and farming row crops. My favorite part of the interview was when Trav asked one of our standard questions; "what is the role of the farmer in society?" and Dr. Backus looked at us a bit incredulously and after a pause asked "did you eat breakfast today? Will you eat lunch and dinner? There you go, then."


Post a Comment