Livestock production key to food access, nutrition

Chessa Lutter, a nutrition researcher with the Divisional of Food Security and Agriculture at the University of Maryland, speaks during the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock meeting at Kansas State University on Sept. 9.

A University of Florida animal scientist backed the importance of livestock agriculture, saying it is a key component to improving the availability of nutritious food in countries that need it the most.

Geoffrey Dahl was speaking at Kansas State University to a large gathering at the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, a meeting that brought together scientists and other industry professionals from 22 countries.

“By increasing livestock production, particularly in developing and emerging economies, we will be able to improve food and nutritional security to future populations,” Dahl said. “And in particular, our interest is improving nutrition for vulnerable populations where it might have life-long impacts on their quality of life.”

Dahl’s work focuses on the benefits of animal-based foods to pregnant women and lactating children under age 2.

Chessa Lutter, a nutrition researcher with the Division of Food Security and Agriculture at the University of Maryland, noted that proteins from animal-based foods are especially important for the development of the brain in young children. She is part of a team that has studied the effects of adding eggs to the diets of infants at 6 months of age.

“Our work has found that eggs can provide more than 25 percent of the baby’s needs for energy, and the choline in eggs is extremely important for brain and cognitive development,” she said.

The two researchers were speaking during a session that focused on food and nutrition security across the world.

“Malnutrition across the globe remains high,” said Greg Miller, who conducts research at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and is a noted blogger under the name “Doctor Dairy.”

“We are finding that livestock can play an important role in reducing our carbon footprint and delivering nutrient rich foods.”

Reducing livestock agriculture’s carbon footprint “is something that farmers and ranchers wake up every day and think about,” said John Niemann, the president for Protein Ingredients and International at Cargill North America. “It’s good business for these farmers and ranchers to take care of their animals, and it’s good business to take care of the land.”

Several members of the half dozen scientists that spoke on food and nutrition security supported the idea that agriculture can increase efficiencies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving the availability of nutritious food.

“There are places of efficiency and inefficiency,” Niemann said. “The ideas in all of this it that we share and collaborate and challenge each other to get better. Even if we are producing the world’s most efficient protein, we need to share those practices. We have to find ways to create a global system that’s efficient and at the same time produce a safe and affordable product.” — Kansas State University Extension

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