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  • Philippe Ankers
    Animal Production Officer FAO
    FAO HQ Viale delle Terme di Caracalla - 00153 Rome, Italy
  • [email protected]
A woman farmer displaying chicken eggs collected. ©FAO/Munir Uz Zaman


French Government and FAO invite to reflect on the value of livestock and animal source food


Expo Milano 2015 provides an opportunity to reflect upon, and seek solutions to, the contradictions of our world where there are still over 800 million people who are hungry or die from ailments linked to poor nutrition and even more who die from too much food. It is in this context, that participants gathered together to discuss some of the factors that drive the evolution of the livestock sector during a joint French government/FAO conference organized on Friday 26 in the French Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, with the participation of industry experts, producers, representatives of non-governmental organizations and the research community.


A first round table focused on the nutritional value of animal source food in resource poor environments. Animal source food provides a critical supplement and diversity to staple plant-based diets, and is particularly appropriate for combating undernutrition and a range of nutritional deficiencies. Consumption is very low in undernourished populations and under these circumstances moderate increases in consumption of milk or meat can provide critical nutritional benefits. Micronutrients, including iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorous, vitamin A and D, tend to be easier to assimilate from livestock products. It was also highlighted that in many households who own livestock, it is often the sale of the milk, eggs or animals that will assist in complementing the food basket with other essential elements of healthy diets.


Livestock produces not only valuable proteins, iron and vitamins, but also employment and income, contributing substantially to food security. Discussions during a second roundtable brought out that 13 percent of the world’s population, that is nearly a billion people, derive at least some part of their livelihood from livestock. For example, smallholder dairying is a key source of nutrition and income to 300 million farm families globally, including 40 million in India.


An interesting example cited was the case of Kenya where an estimated two million dairy farming households keep over five million dairy cattle and some 77 people are employed full time for every 1 000 litres of milk produced daily. Small- and medium sized dairy enterprises represent 87 percent of this employment.


The cultural value of livestock was also discussed as food not only provides nutrients, but also culture, identity and pleasure. Livestock was presented as a fundamental building block for entire populations, both in the industrialized world and in rural areas". Artistic and popular expressions associated with livestock were presented in a passionate way highlighting example of human ​creativity born of the longstanding close links between humans and animals - from the monumental bulls sculpted by the Sumerians, towards the Texan rodeos.

Sharing information on the value of the food we consume and on the many different ways our food is produced will help consumers make the most appropriate choices.