Livestock-based foods pack a 4-dimension punch to global hunger

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Livestock-based foods pack a 4-dimension punch to global hunger

Date: 
Tue, 10/12/2010

When I think of global hunger issues, only one name comes to mind: Norman Borlaug. In college, I never stopped hearing about him — he was an alumni of my alma mater. Borlaug was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and India's second-highest civilian honor: Padma Vibhushan.

He became well-known when he bred and developed a rust-resistant strain of wheat while researching in Mexico — a feat that is credited with saving the lives of hundreds of millions of people. As his tireless career continued, Norman Borlaug eventually became the face of world hunger prevention. One of his most notable quotes states: "Almost certainly, however, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind." Today, his call to improve food security across the globe is more important than ever. Based on FAO projections, in 40 years the world’s growing population will need twice as much food as we produce today. While some of this food will come from additional farmland and cropping intensity, 70 percent of the increase in supply must come from use of new and existing agricultural technologies.

Global food security experts and enthusiasts met yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Fourth Annual Iowa Hunger Summit held in conjunction with the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue. Terry Wollen, veterinarian and interim vice-president of advocacy for Heifer International, and Kevin Watkins , Ph.D. and co-chair of the Elanco Hunger Team and Hunger Board, discussed the role of livestock in reducing food insecurity during a presentation to the Summit’s more than 500 attendees.

To understand how adding livestock-based foods to a diet affects nutrition, Heifer International analyzed the scenario of a typical 40-year-old man living in Zambia. Today, this moderately active 165-pound man would eat a basic diet of cereals, along with small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and meat. Unfortunately, this diet delivers less than half of the recommended amounts of calcium, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin A, and less energy and protein than he needs. Adding 18 ounces of milk, two ounces of beef and one ounce of chicken to this man’s basic daily intake gives him 100 percent or more of the recommended amounts of energy, protein, lysine, and vitamins A, B-2 and B-12, and increases his calcium levels to 75 percent of the recommended amount.

But nutrition is only the beginning. Wollen and Watkins also emphasized livestock-based food's contributions to people’s health, their economic status, and the environment.