Nutrition | Overview, Quick Facts and Resources

Investing in livestock is an investment in tackling ‘hidden hunger’

One of the world’s most pervasive problems is good nutrition. It can affect people in any country, from Asia to Europe, because even when food is readily available, it may not have the nutrients needed for growth. This ‘hidden hunger’ affects two billion people around the globe – nearly 1 out of every 4 people. It is a crisis by any standard.

With milk, meat and eggs being such a nutrient-dense food, these proteins are often part of the foundation of programs to deliver more nutritious foods to at-risk areas. Access to these essentials is one of the most important factors in a community’s quality of life, development and welfare. 

The protein that milk, meat and eggs provide is crucial in children’s physical and mental development, enabling them to become healthy adults, able to contribute to their communities. In areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, where 1/3rd of children are stunted and over half suffer from nutrient deficiency, livestock can make a significant difference in everyday people’s lives.

A recent study found that young children in a rural area of east Africa who regularly ate foods from livestock like milk and meat showed stronger results in cognitive, physical and social tests versus children who didn’t have access to these foods . Another study also found that children who consumed milk or meat had higher levels of academic performance than those who did not.

Many people across the world are fortunate enough to take these foods for granted, but good nutrition relies heavily on efficient and healthy livestock production. 

Animal medicines support farmers and veterinarians in treating animals and protecting them from disease, securing the safe supply of food for many millions of people. Medicines are also often ‘scale neutral, meaning they can be used on a farm of any size, whether it’s 10 or 10,000 cattle.

Vaccines are one of the best examples of a scale-neutral medicine. Doses can be administered individually to an animal, so, a farm only needs to purchase exactly what is necessary. This means even a farmer in Kenya with one cow for his family can protect his animal from a disease like East Coast Fever.

As the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says, "Investing in nutrition makes economic sense as it improves productivity and economic growth and promotes the health of the nation." Protecting livestock from disease is one of the best ways that we can make this investment.

Quick Facts

  • Hunger is a global threat: 815 million people around the globe are undernourished. This number has fallen from a high of 1 billion in 2009, but, is still not acceptable.
  • Nutrition cannot be overlooked: 2 billion people around the globe suffer from 'hidden hunger' or nutrient microdeficiency. It affects people across the world, in both developing and developed countries.
  • Livestock provide essential nutrients: Milk, meat and eggs from livestock provide nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium and Vitamin A. In fact, vitamin B12 can only be found naturally in foods from animals.
  • Animal-sourced foods are a building block: Good nutrition in the first 1000 days of life is essential for proper cognitive and physical development throughout life. Researchers at the United Nations recommend animal-sourced foods be included in a child's diet during this crucial period. These are nutrient-dense foods that help promote good nutrition and prevent deficiencies. 
  • Even a little goes a long way: Researchers found that even just adding 18 ounces of milk and 1/5th of a pound of meat to a daily diet of poor households in Zambia could dramatically increase essential nutrients (protein, calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin A, B2, B12, and D.) and provide nutrition security.