The importance of a holistic approach by the animal scientist involved in research, teaching and practice

Author: 
R.T. Naudé
Volume: 
5
Issue: 
1
Page: 
7
Last Page: 
15
Year: 
2 012

Animal science is a multidisciplinary science spanning a multitude of links in the production chain from conception to consumption. The animal scientist responsible for the research, teaching and practicing of the science should therefor always be aware that a holistic approach is essential when any of the relevant aspects are involved. The animal scientist should be cognizant of the fact that the consumer’s decision to buy animal products forms the basis of the various commodity industries. Consumers have widely diverging expectations of the products of which their own perception of value is the quantity and the quality of the product relative to the other comparable products. In the value package the consumer demands a regular supply of consistently good quality products produced according to the modern acceptable codes of practice (such as consumer issues of animal welfare and environmental impact) at a reasonable price available through an informative and attractive marketing service. After having scrutinized the programmes of certain research and teaching institutes involved in animal science, a holistic approach is observed in most instances. In order to appreciate the scope of modern animal science complexities one should take into account certain key issues. Livestock agriculture has come under security because of concerns related to animal welfare, food safety, health, eco systems and biodiversity. Apart from being responsible towards protection of the environment the livestock industry also needs to take responsibility for animal welfare which is a major concern to the consumer. An extremely useful concept of which the holistically oriented animal scientist should have knowledge is the tool of traceability in the livestock and product industries in order to be able to supply information at any stage from primary production to consumption. In the meat animal industry, taken as an example, knowledge of a wide variety of product value traits contributing to the final quality of the product, should receive the undivided attention of the animal scientist in teaching, research and practice. Some of these are for instance tenderness of meat, widely regarded as the most important quality trait contributing to final eating satisfaction. Certain factors contributing to the tenderness profile of beef are genetic composition of the animal: Bos indicus less tender meat than Bos taurus genotypes and electrical stimulation of the pre rigor carcass. Finally the practicing animal scientist should always be aware of all elements as well as their interactions of the biological system within which the science is being performed. Every link is of equal importance due to the fact that the weakest link determines the strength of the chain.

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