Do animals have a role in future food systems?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


It is widely recognized that the food system generates a broad range of environmental impacts and that the contribution of livestock is significant. For these and other reasons, the future role of animals in the food system is heavily debated. A central question is: what role, if any, could animals play in an environmentally sustainable food system? We demonstrate that animals raised under the circular economy concept could provide a significant, non-negligible part of our daily nutrient needs. We suggest that the role of animals in the food system should be centred on converting biomass that we cannot or do not want to eat into valuable products, such as nutrient-dense food (meat, milk, and eggs) and manure. By converting these leftover streams, livestock recycle nutrients back into the food system that otherwise would have been lost in food production. The availability of these biomass streams for livestock then determines a boundary for livestock production and consumption. We argue, therefore, that we should no longer focus on improving life-time productivity of animals, but on improving the efficiency with which animals recycle biomass unsuited for direct human consumption back into the food system. Future research, therefore, should be directed at questions, such as: which combination of animal systems (including insects and fish) convert available biomass streams most efficiency? Or, which technological or biological treatments can improve the safety, digestibility and nutrient availability of biomass streams available for animals? Acknowledging this recycling role of animals in the food system also offers potential to account for other functions livestock provide to humans and to produce with respect for the animal. It however also implies that developed countries have to significantly reduce their consumption of animal-source food.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts of the 69th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science
Subtitle of host publicationDubrovnik, Croatia, 27th-31st August, 2018
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868711
ISBN (Print)9789086863235
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2018
Event69th Annual meeting of the |E|uropean Federation of Animal Science - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Duration: 27 Aug 201831 Aug 2018

Publication series

NameBook of abstracts, EAAP European Federation of Animal Science
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISSN (Print)1382-6077


Conference69th Annual meeting of the |E|uropean Federation of Animal Science

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