Livestock-derived foods and sustainable healthy diets

WashU affiliated authors: Lora Iannotti, Mary Kate Cartmill (Brown School)

Published by UN Nutrition


The health and nutrition implications of livestock-derived foods in sustainable healthy diets are complex. They vary significantly depending on context, time of life and livestock commodity and production methods. Blanket messages about livestock-derived foods in sustainable diets mask these crucial differences and hinder the development of tailored approaches.

This paper delves into that diversity, exploring the importance of livestock-derived foods to nutrition (past and present) and their important and often controversial interface with two key areas: human health and the environment. It provides an overview of the current discussion on the potential role of livestock-derived foods in sustainable healthy diets and the major health benefits and risks of livestock-derived food consumption.

It presents the opportunities and potential trade-offs of sustainable consumption and production to help build a consensus on the role of livestock-derived foods in sustainable, healthy and equitable diets. By integrating farm-to-table solutions across food systems, progress can be made on achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The analysis recognizes that because of their high nutritional value, livestock-derived foods are essential to the diets of infants and young children, especially in low-resource settings. For other groups, such as those that eat high amounts of livestock-derived foods, consumption should be reduced to improve health and lessen environmental impacts.

The paper concludes with suggestions on next steps for positive change through programmes and policies, research and institutional commitments. To achieve sustainable healthy diets for all, any consideration of livestock-derived foods must take into account evidence-based, integrated solutions that incorporate diversity and equity.


Discussion panel on report findings: