Never too plate
In my role as editor of a food and drink magazine, I am particularly interested in the very different interpretations of which foods are healthy or unhealthy, and that got me thinking… But, then came a review published in the Journal of Nutrition.
The demand for animal source foods is growing – and at a rapid rate. The ability of food systems to meet this growing demand varies and presents a major challenge and opportunity to how food systems can evolve to meet the nutritional requirements of households and specifically the protein needs in developing and emerging economies.
Animal-source foods play an important role globally in ensuring healthy and sustainable diets, according to the review. It is essential that animal-source foods are produced in alignment with local ecosystems and at the appropriate scale, the review writes. The review also suggests that processed meat should be limited, and red meat and saturated fat should be moderated to lower noncommunicable disease risk, and that this will also reduce the environmental footprint of diets.
There is no mistaking that the future role of animals in the food system will continue to be heavily debated but the review highlights that livestock can be produced in ways that “contribute to sustainability, through circular and diverse agroecosystems”. There is also scope to consider the role that animals play in recycling biomass unsuited for human consumption back into the food system.
We know animal-source foods are nutrient-dense, and provide us with a mix of highly bioavailable proteins, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin B12. Future foods are attractive nutritious alternatives, however it cannot be ignored that the greenhouse gas emissions of future foods mainly originate from high-energy consuming processes. Furthermore, the impacts of processing, preparation and cooking on the nutritional quality, and the extent to which nutrients can be taken up by the body is ongoing and have not yet been studied sufficiently.
Initiatives to better educate consumers will be essential to attempt to allow for a better understanding of livestock production. While the review demonstrated the importance of animal-source foods, it also discussed the need to increase consumption of “health-protective minimally processed plant-based foods”.
No one-size-fits-all solution exists, yet if all systems improve economic viability, environmental stewardship and social responsibility on a global scale, the challenge of meeting human food requirements for animal-source foods becomes far more achievable.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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