President and CEO, Elanco
Humankind and our planet stand on the precipice of a great nutritional reckoning.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently reported that world hunger is on the rise for the third year in a row, with nearly 821 million people undernourished. At the same time, food production must increase by 70% in 2050 to meet growing global demand. Challenges around global hunger and food security continue to increase.
A similar statistic demonstrates just how much we overuse. Each year, our global population uses natural resources 70% faster than they can be renewed – equivalent to using 1.7 earths. Or, put simply, by early August of this year we burned through the resources that should see us through an entire year.
It is imperative to consider how agriculture can play a part in the solution. Raising healthier animals can sustainably improve the lives of millions of people and our planet.
“Animal protein – meat, milk and eggs – are an essential part of a balanced diet. That’s why it is vitally important we make the health and well-being of animals a priority and identify how to raise them more efficiently, so we can improve lives today while conserving natural resources for future generations,” said Jeff Simmons, president and CEO of Elanco, a leading animal health company with a legacy of innovating products to meet global challenges.
Healthy animals can impact global hunger
One of the most significant threats to food security lies in livestock disease, with 20% of farm animal productivity lost due to illness and death. This also creates economic losses for farmers and results in numerous ripple effects.
For example, nearly 25% of the global population is anemic, and anemia from iron deficiency is the most common cause. Increased protein in the diet could help solve this widespread form of malnutrition and the most common cause of impaired cognitive development in children. But less available protein and economic losses to farmers make it more difficult for many people to purchase and consume meat, milk and eggs, which all offer important nutritional profiles for human health.
Meat is nutrient-rich in vitamin B12, which is only found in animal food sources and is also rich in zinc and iron. One egg contains half the protein a child needs each day. Milk is high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein, which are all essential for healthy bone growth and the development and maintenance of healthy teeth.
“We can make great strides for global human health and the environment by improving the health and well-being of animals,” said Simmons. “This is because a healthy animal has a direct impact on the health of people and our planet by providing safe, wholesome nutrition and improving environmental sustainability.”
Simmons adds that veterinary oversight is integral to animal health and helps identify ways to ensure that animals live longer, healthier and higher-quality lives.
He also points to innovation as essential to providing more protein using fewer resources and reducing or eliminating hunger while maximizing food choices for consumers. The key is getting tools in the hands of farmers, and helping them learn how to use innovative medicines.
Improving animal health through partnerships
Providing education and tools that improve animal health and support the people who care for animals is crucial to improving global animal health yet poses a significant challenge. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are changing that.
“Our partnerships bring together the people and assets to meet the multifaceted needs of farmers and the livestock for which they care,” said Maria Zampaglione, shared value advisor for Elanco. “While our expertise is animal health, our partners bring infrastructure and additional insights to the table resulting in impactful solutions – the types of solutions that can provide long-term answers to food security issues.”
For instance, one project in East Africa demonstrates the interconnectedness that starts with animals and helps local farming families increase livestock production. The shared value project provides them with access to high-quality, reliable veterinary medicines and knowledge to combat livestock disease. It also supplies the animal health tools in quantities and packages useful to smallholder farmers, while offering training on disease awareness, preventative animal healthcare, and more. Supporting these farmers reduces hunger and poverty in a sustainable way.
“Providing training and access to reliable, effective animal health tools helps smallholder farmers identify, prevent and treat livestock illness, protecting their herds from devastating losses,” said Simmons.
That’s the kind of action that will help secure the future nutritional needs around the world without bringing increasing pressures on the natural resource base.
2 http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/wsfs/docs/Issues_papers/HLEF2050_Global_Agriculture.pdf, p2