Deep in the hearts of many people in the U.S. and worldwide is the uncertainty of not just having enough food to eat – but having nutritious food.

Animal-sourced foods provide vital micronutrients and a vital part of the puzzle for solving world hunger issues.

Food and nutrition security was a featured topic at the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock meeting Sept. 9-13 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

“Hidden hunger” affects two billion people, and occurs when the quality of food eaten doesn’t meet a person’s nutrient requirements. Those needs are especially important for pregnant and lactating women, and infants and young children during the first 1,000 days of life.

Not getting enough nutrients from animal-sourced foods can stunt physical, emotional and cognitive growth with lifelong impacts, according to study results detailed at the K-State conference.

Stunted children are four times as likely to die before age 2, experience an average 11-point reduction in I.Q. score, and as adults; earn 22% less income. Poor diet quality is considered a higher risk for many chronic diseases.

“These animal source products contain all essential amino acids and many important micronutrients that prevent stunting and other issues,” said Dr. Tim Kurt, scientific program director with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

Animal-sourced food contains iron, zinc, vitamin D and B12, as well as long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are integral for brain development, he said.

Globally, people get 25% of their protein and 18% of their calories from animal-sourced food

“There’s a need to produce more food in the next 30 years than the amount produced in the last 10,000 years combined, which is staggering,” Kurt said, adding that meeting that need will take all of the tools producers have.

Africa and parts of Asia are particularly vulnerable to shocks to food security. The nutrition of women, infants and children is especially compromised in these regions.

“Africa, an under-developed agri-sector since 2016, has been facing an unprecedented rise in food insecurity. Productivity levels have been stagnant,” said Dr. Simplice Nouala, head of the agriculture and food security division with the African Union Commission.

A highlight of Nouala’s presentation was “Agenda 2063-The Africa We Want,” outlining a transformation agenda for his country over the next 40-plus years.

The world population is expected to increase by 2 to 3 billion people by 2050 – mostly in emerging and developing countries. The challenge is to meet that increased demand for nutritious food.

As humans evolved, adults became healthier when they started following a Paleolithic or Mediterranean diet, researchers said. Today’s trending paleo diet is based on foods similar to those eaten during the Paleolithic era 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. It includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

The Mediterranean diet adds grains and moderate amounts of alcohol and dairy foods.

Researchers at the conference addressed concerns over the environmental impact of cattle production. While manure is a critical fertilizer for crops and pastures worldwide, researcher said we need to reduce greenhouse gases like methane and reduce the impact on global warming and climate change. But when considering how much nutritious human food cows produce, it evens out, according to Dr. Geoffrey Dahl, an animal science professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Cattle producers are becoming more efficient by relying on genetics as well as improvements in feed, housing and animal health, he said.

“There are aspects of our livestock systems that could be applied in other countries to benefit their systems,” he said.

Amy Hadachek can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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