The Van Trump Report

NEW Report from FAO Makes Positive Case for “Animal-Derived” Food Products

Diverse foods derived from livestock production systems, including grazing and pastoralist systems, and from the hunting of wild animals, provide high-quality proteins, important fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals that cannot be easily obtained from plant-based substitutes. That is the conclusion of a new analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which the agency claims is the most comprehensive analysis yet of the benefits and risks of consumer animal-source foods.

Entitled “Contribution of terrestrial animal source food to healthy diets for improved nutrition and health outcomes,”  FAO’s analysis is based on data and evidence from more than 500 scientific papers and some 250 policy documents. Terrestrial animal source food (TASF) comprises all food products obtained from mammals, birds and insects, including meat and meat, eggs, milk, and their respective products.

According to the report, evidence from the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens shows that higher dietary intakes of TASF were associated with increased stature, brain size and longevity, probably establishing metabolic requirements in the human body that still need to be met today. Meat, eggs, and milk provide a range of essential macronutrients, micronutrients, and bioactive compounds that can be difficult to obtain from plant-based foods in the required quality and quantity.    

High-quality protein, several essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B12, choline, and bioactive compounds like carnitine, creatine, and taurine found in TASF play unique and important roles in human health. Animal-derived food products, within appropriate dietary patterns, can help achieve milestones related to reducing stunting and wasting among children under five years of age, low birth weight, anemia in women of reproductive age (15–49 years), overweight among children under five years of age, and obesity in adults.

In adults, findings largely indicate that consumption of milk and dairy products (such as yogurt) has positive effects in terms of reducing the risk of all-cause mortality, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, and fractures. Relatively robust evidence shows that egg consumption among adults does not increase the risk of stroke or coronary heart disease. Compelling evidence suggests that, in adults, meat intake of between 85 and 300 g/day can protect against iron deficiency. Poultry meat has not been studied as much as beef, but findings suggest a protective effect against stroke risk in women.

The report also concludes that science related to TASF alternatives, including plant-based food and cell-cultured “meat”, is relatively new. Evidence suggests that these products cannot replace TASF in terms of nutritional composition. Plant-based meat alternatives that are widely available on the market have been found to be deficient in some essential nutrients and high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Further research is also needed to complete food-safety risk assessments for cell-cultured “meat” produced at industrial scale.

FAO’s report additionally highlights the benefit of livestock production systems on human livelihoods, which more than a billion people worldwide depend on. Small-scale livestock farmers and pastoralists make up a large proportion of livestock producers. Well integrated livestock production increases the resilience of small-scale farming systems. Livestock also provide other important ecosystem services in landscape management, provide energy, and help to improve soil fertility. Rangeland or grassland ecosystems occupy some 40% of the world’s terrestrial area. Livestock keepers raise grazing animals to transform grassland vegetation into food. Check out the full report HERE.

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