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Professor Dr. Hans H. Stein

DSM Nutritional Sciences Award (2015)

Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois (U.S)  
Professor Dr. Hans H. Stein

At the end of the day, someone has to feed the pigs!

Receiving the 2015 DSM Nutritional Sciences Award is a huge honor for me. To be acknowledged by your peers for your work is the greatest of accolades. It makes me feel extremely happy, and it’s very humbling at the same time.

The award ceremony was a special moment in my career. I’m proud to be associated with DSM, as I have been for some years now. The company has great products based on terrific science, and it conducts itself with genuine integrity.

Pig

A boyhood on the farm

I’ve worked with pigs ever since I was a boy, but I never planned to become a professor! My career has evolved step by step, as I have progressed from one opportunity to the next. I grew up on a livestock farm in my native Denmark, and my first duty of the day was always to feed the pigs or milk the cows. The family farm was at the heart of everything I did, and thoughts of education took second place in those early years.

As a young man, I had every intention of becoming a farmer like my father. During my initial training, however, I became so interested in animal nutrition that I decided to study it before returning to farming. I studied Animal Science at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark, then took a job with a feed company, and after that completed a Ph.D. in Non-Ruminant Nutrition at the University of Illinois.

I could easily have spent my life working with cows rather than pigs, actually, but the head of pig feed at my first employer resigned, and I was asked to take on his role! So I’ve focused on pig nutrition ever since.

Child eating salami

Feeding the world, protecting the planet

Developing efficient and sustainable approaches to livestock nutrition will be key to feeding the world’s population as it grows. There’ll be 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. We’ll need to feed them better than we currently feed today’s approximately 7 billion while at the same time protecting the world’s precious natural resources. I’m optimistic that we can double protein production in the next 35 years if we approach this challenge innovatively.

The research in my laboratory focuses on making the nutrients that occur naturally in fiber more bioavailable to pigs. This means that pigs can be fed a high-fiber diet while more valuable foods can be saved for humans. It also reduces the environmental impact of pig farming by reducing the excretion of undigested nutrients.

Inspiration – and dedication

I passionately believe that my responsibility is to develop the best science I can and at the same time to educate the next generation of scientists. I learned a huge amount from my mentors Drs. Bob Easter and Dave Baker during my early days at the University of Illinois. I try to pass on that inspiration to my own students. As I tell them: Whatever we do, someone has to feed the pigs, and if we’re not assisting in that enterprise, then we’re not doing our job!