A call for a holistic view of meat eating by Lawrence Haddad, of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

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Standing Rib, by Roy Lichtenstein, 1962.

‘Eat less meat’ is seen by many as a way of improving the health of the planet and its people.

But the issue isn’t quite so simple—at least where the nutrition security and livelihoods of millions of people in the Global South are concerned.

A call for a holistic view.

Animal-sourced food production sits right at the heart of . . . overlapping issues, which often entail significant technical and political trade-offs between different goals and different groups of people. . . .

Eating less meat would harm the livelihoods of many low-income populations who depend on livestock, poultry and fishing.

The challenge, then, for high-income countries is to reduce the consumption of animal-source foods (for their own health), and the challenge in lower-income countries is to improve the efficiency of animal source production (for the sake of the planet’s health).

For middle-income countries, the challenge is to improve on both dimensions. . . .

Decisions about food production and food consumption need to be informed by these trade-offs as well as the synergies.

This points to a need for a significant increase in research that explores the attainment of these goals simultaneously, particularly for middle- and low-income countries because most of the limited evidence is from Europe and North America.

The trade-offs and synergies are not only technical issues, they are also political. Different constituencies have different interests and different power.

The technical and political economy issues also have to be identified, analysed and navigated within a multi-goal framework if food systems are to be transformed for people, animals and the planet.

This is the challenge for the UN Food Systems Summit of 2021, and it is the challenge for all of us before—and after—the Summit.

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‘Eat less meat: if only it were that simple’, by Lawrence Haddad, International Journal for Rural Development, 17 Aug 2020.

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GAIN Discussion Paper No. 5: The role of animal-source foods in healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems, 2020

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