Jeff Simmons, President of animal health company Elanco, is well aware that the real struggle going forward has everything to do with feeding 9 billion.
But the 9 billion is not the big number, Simmons said, in accepting this year's CAST Communication Award at the annual Norman Borlaug World Food Prize in Des Moines.
The three he focused on were 3, 60 and 1.5.
Of the growing population, he said, the real challenge is the 3 billion people who are expected to join the middle class over the next two to three decades.
"The first thing people entering the middle class, gaining new economic security, want is a better diet," he said. "That means, more than anything, animal protein, meat, eggs and milk. That means raising more livestock and more feed for that livestock. And it means better productivity from the number of livestock we already have."
The emergence of that class, he said, will create the demand for 60% more production of meat, eggs and milk.
Achieving that demand at today's production rate, he said, will require 1.5 planets.
"Needless to say, we only have one planet," he said. "That is our challenge."
Milk, he said, is a huge factor in a healthy diet. In America, average consumption is three 8-ounce glasses per day. In the rest of the world, all the milk available provides 1 glass per day per person. Nutritionists recommend two glasses per day either as liquid milk or as yogurt and cheese.
The human need for protein, he said, is borne out in research conducted in Kenya.
Students were given mental acuity tests based on diet. One group, who continued on the same diet, saw scores drop 10%. Another group ate equivalent calories with added oils. Scores dropped 7%. A third group ate equivalent calories with added milk. Scores rose 28%. A fourth group added meat as a source of some of their calories. Scores soared 44%.
He said the agricultural industry will need innovation, science and hard work to add the food the world of the future will need with fewer acres of arable land and with the same water supplies that we have today.
"We can't add the 40 million dairy cows our world will need to supply that added milk," he said. "But if we can just 4.75 ounces to the production of each dairy cow, we don't need to add cows to the current number."
Keep watching this space for more reports on initiatives discussed at this year's World Food Prize.