In the past, foodborne disease was rarely seen as a development priority. This all changed when WHO published the first assessment of the global burden of foodborne disease. Covering just 31 hazards, the study found the health burden was comparable to that of HIV-AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis.
Derek Headey, a senior research fellow at the CGIAR’s International Food Policy Research Institute, yesterday published an opinion piece in The Telegraph on the importance of using milk, meat and eggs to fight malnutrition and stunting in the developing world. But, Headey warns, these ‘animal-sourced foods’, particularly fresh milk and eggs, are prohibitively expensive for poor households.
The narrative posited by cultured meat proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The environmental impacts of a product, such as a beef hamburger, is then compared to the anticipatory ones for producing a cultured hamburger patty through tissue engineering-based cellular agriculture. While it is true that conventional meat production has a large environmental footprint, the problem with this dichotomous framing is that it overlooks the rest of the story.
As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it. A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.
Having scanned the scientific literature (100 journal articles) on the impact of milk production on reducing poverty, Torsten Hemme, managing director of the IFCN (International Farm Comparison Network) Dairy Research Center, in Kiel, Germany, says that dairy is improving lives in multiple ways.
Livestock experts Anne Mottet and Henning Steinfeld, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), warn of the pitfalls of simplification when looking at greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and transport are often compared, but in a flawed way.
Calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.