Livestock and sustainable food systems: Status, trends, and priority actions
Livestock are a critically important component of the food system, although the sector needs a profound transformation to ensure that it contributes to a rapid transition towards sustainable food systems.
A chapter in a newly published open-access book, Science and innovations for food systems transformation (Jan 2023), reviews and synthesizes the evidence available on changes in demand for livestock products in the last few decades, and the multiple socio-economic roles that livestock have around the world.
The authors also describe the nutrition, health, and environmental impacts for which the sector is responsible.
The authors propose eight critical actions to transition towards a more sustainable operating space for livestock.
- Facilitate shifts in the consumption of animal-source foods, recognizing that global reductions will be required, especially in communities with high consumption levels, while promoting increased levels in vulnerable groups, including the undernourished, pregnant women and the elderly.
- Continue work towards the sustainable intensification of livestock systems, paying particular attention to animal welfare, food–feed competition, blue water use, disease transmission and perverse economic incentives.
- Embrace the potential of circularity in livestock systems as a way of partially decoupling livestock from land.
- Adopt practices that lead to the direct or indirect mitigation of greenhouse gases.
- Adopt some of the vast array of novel technologies at scale and design incentive mechanisms for their rapid deployment.
- Diversify the protein sources available for human consumption and feed, focusing on the high-quality alternative protein sources that have lower environmental impacts.
- Tackle antimicrobial resistance effectively through a combination of technology and new regulations, particularly for the fast-growing poultry and pork sectors and for feedlot operations.
- Implement true cost of food and true-pricing approaches to animal-source food consumption.
Herrero, M., Mason-D’Croz, D., Thornton, P.K., Fanzo, J., Rushton, J., Godde, C., Bellows, A., Groot de, A., Palmer, J., Chang, J., Zanten, H. van, Wieland, B., DeClerck, F., Nordhagen, S. and Gill, M. 2023. Livestock and sustainable food systems: Status, trends, and priority actions. IN: Braun, J. von, Afsana, K., Fresco, L.O. and Hassan, M.H.A. (eds), Science and innovations for food systems transformation. Cham: Springer: 375–399.
Photo credit: Goats in Mozambique awaiting sale (ILRI/Yvane Marblé)