Given the reality that implementing new technology within the beef industry is usually one more of evolution than revolution, it's easy to take the opportunities provided by technology for granted.

For instance, consider the technological improvements of the past 50 years. Without those improvements, the number of cattle required to produce the 2004 beef supply would number more than 180-million head, rather than the current U.S. inventory of 95-million head. And, at current stocking rates, those 85 million more cattle would require additional land equal to the combined acreage of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Kansas to provide the needed pasture and grain.

That's just one of the nuggets gleaned by Rod Preston and Tom Elam in their review of technical literature, entitled "50 Years of Pharmaceutical Technology and Its Impact on the Beef We Provide Consumers," released this week during the cattle industry summer conference.

Preston is a Texas Tech University professor emeritus of animal science. Elam is an associate lecturer in economics at Indiana University and an adjunct fellow for the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.

"While decreasing resource use, cattlemen have increased total beef production from 13.2-billion lbs. to 27-billion lbs. in the last 50 years," the researchers say. "Beef quality has improved while inflation-corrected retail prices have decreased by more than 25% during the same period."

The study makes for interesting reading. It also underscores how much more progress is possible considering how little some technologies, such as artificial insemination, are currently used and other new technologies, such as DNA marker-assisted selection, are.

The review was funded by a grant from the Growth Enhancement Technology Information Taskforce. For a full report, send an e-mail to Beef Technology Report Request.