‘Imagine’ Feeding 10 Billion People

Noel White speaking to Coalition for Global Protein event attendees in Davos, Switzerland.

The catalyst that can spark real change is one word: imagine.

That’s what those of us attending the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos were challenged to do.

The event, which draws more than 3,000 business and political leaders, is a global platform for imagining and sharing ideas for solving some of the world’s most challenging issues. Since Tyson Foods has become a global food company, it was an excellent opportunity for us to listen and learn, as well as share our perspective.

Of course, our primary focus was food. What I, along with my colleagues Amy Tu and John R. Tyson, heard at the meeting confirms that a combination of strategies and solutions – including all forms of protein – are needed to responsibly feed a world population expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050.  In fact, it’s estimated the world will need to almost double the production of protein.

Here are some of our observations:

New, disruptive technology is being developed and we must quickly set out our strategy on the best ways to use it. As noted by WEF, “The speed and scale of technological advances in recent years alone has been immense. In the last two years: 90% of the data in the world was created.” Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are giving companies like ours new, more efficient ways of doing business. We want to continue to understand what they can do to make our supply chains more efficient and sustainable.

Venture capital funding for precision technologies over the last three years was reportedly $1.1 trillion. This includes precision agriculture, which involves the use of information and satellite technology on the farm to ensure crops and soil receive exactly what they need, maximizing yields and protecting the environment. Gene editing is another option being explored. It involves changing the existing genetic make-up of a plant to promote certain traits, such as disease resistance.

There’s also precision consumption, which can use DNA, digital biometrics and other data to help people make more informed decisions about their health and well-being, including what they eat. This technology could improve health outcomes for team members and reduce medical expenses. It could also give us more insight as we launch functional foods like our Pact® refrigerated protein snacks, created to help people harness the natural benefits of food. 

Some additional observations from the WEF meeting:

  • A surprising number of European and American universities have active research underway in new forms of food production technology. Many of them are seeking partners to commercialize their work, which address such areas as food loss and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as improved water conservation.
  • More young people and women must be given a voice. We need to inspire our young team members to voice their ideas and opinions, trust their instincts and own their work. We also need more women engaged in the global conversation. Women made up only 24% of the attendees at the WEF Annual Meeting.

Of course, safeguarding the environment continues to be a focal point. According to research from McKinsey & Company, the planet’s temperature “has risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius on average since the 1880s…” and that continued temperature increases could disrupt food production in some regions of the world, including “regional breadbasket areas,” increasing the possibility of reduced crop yields.

Protection of the environment and more efficient food production are among the reasons, Tyson Foods has made commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve more water and encourage crop farmers to improve land use practices. We believe sustainability should be integrated into business decision-making to become more efficient, while benefitting people, planet and animals.

Our commitment to continuous improvement is why our company has initiated the creation of the Coalition for Global Protein, a multi-stakeholder initiative to advance the future of sustainable protein. The goal of the Coalition is to identify and implement new and creative solutions to sustainably feed the world’s growing population.

We’re introducing this Coalition because we know that we cannot achieve meaningful progress alone. It requires a collective commitment and immediate action. In other words, we’re working to “imagine” solutions.

Click here to visit the Coalition for Global Protein website.

Author
President & Chief Executive Officer at

Noel White has run the largest U.S. food company since late September 2018, building on Tyson Foods’ existing strategy to even better serve customers and people’s changing tastes. In his role, he leads 141,000 team members and familiar brands including Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells, ibp and State Fair.

Noel is committed to growing Tyson Foods by focusing on value-added foods and international expansion. At the same time, he aims to stabilize the company’s commodity businesses by listening to customers and adapting to their needs. He believes doing good is good business. He is passionate about both sustainability and investing in our people – for instance, by expanding our workforce education program, Upward Academy.

Bringing more than 35 years of experience with Tyson Foods and its predecessor companies (including IBP, inc.), Noel most recently served as group president of Tyson’s Fresh Meats business unit. He previously worked in numerous sales, management, and company officer positions including chief operations officer, president of poultry, senior group vice president of fresh meats, senior vice president for fresh meat sales and marketing, and senior vice president, pork product management.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Noel is a graduate of Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota. He received a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in economics from Oklahoma City University.