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University of Pennsylvania

Feeding the World

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera


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This course will explore the concepts driving current food production science (population growth, urbanization, emerging affluence, resource constraints, and underlying biological limits) with the main focus on livestock production. Each of the major food animal species (dairy, swine, beef, and poultry) will be covered in terms of their universal life cycles, constraints to production and emerging societal issues. Throughout the course, we will tackle some difficult and important questions: What are the major health benefits and potential concerns regarding the production and consumption of animal products? How does animal production affect the efficient use of resources and impact our environment? Can cost of production be reduced to meet growing demand for animal products around the globe while maintaining health and safety for both animals and consumers? What are the different types of animal food production systems? Myths and misconceptions surrounding the animal food systems will be discussed. We’ll also look closely at some of the global issues, problems, and challenges in these food systems which scientists, farmers, and veterinarians, are attempting to solve through collaboration. Lectures will be delivered by several experts from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine who are intimately involved in the study and advancement of animal production systems. The course is geared towards learners who seek a greater understanding of animal food systems as well as those who might have never visited an animal farm, but have a desire to learn more about where some of our food comes from and issues surrounding sustainability.


  • Population Growth and Global Animal Industries
    • This module introduces the course by discussing the pressing need to address global food security as well as the accompanying challenges and ethical issues. We also explore the role that livestock play in the food production system and review trends in animal production.
  • Issues Surrounding Animal Production
    • This module begins to explore the fundamental principles of animal production operations and the issues surrounding animal production. We will look at the efficiency and environmental impact of the food system as well as animal welfare concerns. Finally, we will discuss the importance of water as an essential resource for the food production system.
  • Animal Feeds and the Environment
    • This module focuses on animal feeds and their important role in the animal production system. You will gain an understanding of the constituents in feed as well as how feed is classified. We will also examine and explain how nutrients flow through the environment. Finally, we will look at the problem of food waste and identify solutions.
  • General Animal Production, Efficiency and Food Safety
    • This module continues the discussion of animal production operations by looking at factors that affect farms’ animal yields and environmental efficiency. We will also explore food safety, how and why antibiotics are used in food production, and the importance of veterinary medicine as part of the livestock system. Finally, we will look at the challenges of food security and livestock farming in the developing world.
  • Dairy Production
    • Welcome to the first week of the course which explores a particular animal production sector. The focus for this module will be dairy. The life cycle of a dairy cow as well as the environmental impact of dairy production will be covered. We'll also explore housing systems, milking technologies, trends and animal welfare issues in the dairy production system. Finally we will address public health concerns in dairy production including hormone use, antibiotic use, and milk safety in the U.S.
  • Swine Production
    • This module will examine the life cycle of market hogs and mother sows in the U.S. swine production system. Swine housing and the rationale behind those facilities will be covered in addition to welfare and the trends and challenges currently affecting the swine industry.
  • Poultry Production
    • This module examines the production system and life cycle of U.S. poultry. We'll address animal welfare issues and emerging challenges and finish the week with a discussion about public health concerns related to the poultry production system.
  • Beef Production
    • The final module of the course focuses on beef production systems. We will examine the production system and life cycle of U.S. beef cattle. Then, we'll address animal health as well as public health issues. Finally, we'll finish the week with a discussion about the international beef industry.

Taught by

David Galligan and James Ferguson


4.7 rating at Coursera based on 229 ratings

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