Livestock and sustainable food systems: status, trends, and priority actions

Herrero, Mario; Mason-D'Croz, Daniel; Thornton, Philipp K.; Fanzo, Jessica; Rushton, Jonathan; Godde, Cecile; Bellows, Alexandra; de Groot, Adrian; Palmer, Jeda; Chang, Jinfeng; van Zanten, Hannah; Wieland, Barbara; DeClerck, Fabrice; Nordhagen, Stella; Gill, Margaret (2021). Livestock and sustainable food systems: status, trends, and priority actions Center for Development Research (ZEF) in cooperation with the Scientific Group for the UN Food System Summit 2021 10.48565/bonndoc-1

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Livestock are a critically important component of the food system, however, the sector needs a profound transformation to ensure that it contributes to a rapid transition towards sustainable food systems. This paper reviews and synthesises the evidence available on changes in demand for livestock products in the last few decades, and the multiple socio-economic roles that livestock have around the world. We also describe the nutrition, health, and environmental impacts for which the sector is responsible. We propose eight critical actions for transitioning towards a more sustainable operating space for livestock. 1. Shifts in the consumption of animal source foods, recognising that reductions in consumption will be required, especially in communities with high consumption levels, while promoting increases in consumption of vulnerable groups, including the undernourished, pregnant women and the elderly. Diet shifts alone will not produce the deep transformations required, and the following actions need to be deployed at scale at the same time. 2. Continue work towards the sustainable intensification of livestock systems, paying particular attention to animal welfare, food-feed competition, blue water use, disease transmission and perverse economic incentives. 3. Embrace the potential of circularity in livestock systems as a way of partially decoupling livestock from land. 4. Adopt practices that lead to the direct or indirect mitigation of greenhouse gases. 5. Adopt some of the vast array of novel technologies at scale and design the incentive mechanisms for their rapid deployment. 6. Diversify the protein sources available for human consumption and feed, focusing on the high-quality alternative protein sources that have low environmental impacts. 7. Tackle anti-microbial resistance effectively through a combination of technology and new regulations, particularly for the fast- growing poultry and pork sectors and for feedlot operations. 8.Implement true-cost of food and true-pricing approaches to animal source food consumption. The scale of the efforts on these actions will depend on the context and needs of each country or region, however, these actions will need to be deployed simultaneously and in combination to ensure that livestock contribute to sustainable food systems, leaving no-one behind.

Item Type:

Report (Report)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Institute of Virology and Immunology

UniBE Contributor:

Wieland, Barbara


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture


Center for Development Research (ZEF) in cooperation with the Scientific Group for the UN Food System Summit 2021




Pamela Schumacher

Date Deposited:

18 Nov 2021 14:19

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:54

Publisher DOI:





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