Livestock production should be intensified in “relevant locations” to achieve zero hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). The FAO emphasizes that livestock serves as a crucial source of high-quality protein and essential micronutrients, playing a vital role in normal development and good health, particularly in vulnerable or remote communities. A recent FAO report estimates that by 2030, approximately 590.3 million people will suffer from hunger. The FAO launched its report, titled “Achieving SDG 2 without breaching the 1.5C threshold: A Global Roadmap,” at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28). The report outlines 120 actions across 10 domains to achieve the goal of zero hunger. These domains include livestock, crops, forests and wetlands, soil and water, and clean energy.
The FAO highlights that actions targeting the livestock sector should prioritize enhancing production efficiency, particularly among low-productivity producers. The focus should be on reducing resource usage, such as land, water, and energy, per unit of consumable products by implementing improved livestock management practices. The recommended actions for livestock to achieve zero hunger are as follows: improving livestock productivity through better genetics, intensifying livestock production in relevant locations and improving feeding practices, protecting animal health through improved veterinary services and animal disease surveillance, changing the feed industry and promoting new sources of proteins for feed, restoring degraded pasture and improving grazing management practices, matching the livestock population to nutritional needs and environmental opportunities and constraints, adopting integrated production regimes, improving the adoption of certification and labeling schemes that promote low-carbon practices and zero-deforestation, and realigning public livestock farm policies with the objectives of promoting development and adoption of improved breeds, innovative feeds, and integrated production systems while phasing out subsidies that encourage overgrazing, excessive use of antibiotics, or production in environmentally inefficient locations.
Livestock directly contributes to 26% of agri-food system emissions. Without interventions and productivity gains, meeting increased demand is likely to increase emissions by over 40%. However, there is a significant disparity in carbon footprint, with emissions ranging from 295kg carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (eq) per kg of protein for beef to 31kg CO2eq/kg for eggs. In the case of milk, emissions per unit of fat and protein corrected milk vary greatly among countries, ranging from below 2kg CO2eq to over 20kg CO2eq in less productive countries. The FAO states that this disparity in carbon footprint offers significant opportunities to increase productivity and reduce emissions through technology diffusion. The report suggests that low-carbon investments should prioritize low-productivity systems, particularly those yielding less than 2,000kg of fat and protein corrected milk per year.
In 2022, 738.9 million people faced hunger, 2.4 billion were moderately or severely food insecure, and over 3.1 billion lacked access to healthy diets, according to the FAO. The main goal of the UN remains the elimination of chronic undernourishment by 2030. The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the issue, adding 120 million people to the chronically undernourished globally. The FAO aims to reduce the number of people who cannot afford healthy diets by 50% between 2020 and 2040, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that everyone consumes healthy diets by 2050.