Humans share the planet with a dizzying array of other animals and plants, forming a vast network of connections. This also means that human health is more closely related to animal health than we can imagine.
Oftentimes, animals as well as humans can be affected by many of the same diseases. More than half of human infections are transmitted by animals. These infections, known as zoonoses, include examples such as rabies, salmonella, and West Nile virus. Zoonoses affect more than two billion people and cause more than two million deaths each year.
As Earth’s population grows, our relationship with animals becomes stronger as people travel a lot around the world, change the environment, and experience more volatile relationships with animals for companionship, food, and more. These changes are responsible for the easy spread of diseases between animals and humans. In this case, it becomes necessary to track the health of animals in order to ensure the strong health of humans in general.
Furthermore, learning about the interdependence between humans and animals is more important than ever as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is known to be zoonotic. To this end, India recently celebrated the International One Health Day, which aims to create awareness about common health threats to the human-animal-environment interface.
The strong link between animal nutrition and human health
Globally, diets are undergoing drastic changes in terms of consumption patterns, particularly in terms of the increasing demand for animal products.
The human body is made up of 17% protein and relies on animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs and milk. Traditionally, Indians are known to be protein deficient. However, studies have found that there has been an increase in the consumption of foods rich in protein rich foods during the COVID-19 pandemic with estimates suggesting a 15% increase.
Therefore, when we think about the major role that animal food plays in our lives, it should also prompt us to think about the impact of the nutrition provided to animals and how it affects us as humans. Animal nutrition has a direct relationship not only to animal health but also indirectly through animal products to human health. This is why it is necessary to design animal nutrition strategies after taking into account the fact that animal nutrition is at the forefront of producing healthier food for both humans and the planet.
How does animal nutrition affect the environment?
We live in an age where calculating the carbon footprint of food products is becoming commonplace, as more and more people try to mitigate their environmental impact. Furthermore, in the race to manage global warming, reducing methane emissions is one of the most effective ways to deliver rapid returns.
As sustainably produced food plays an increasingly important role for consumers, animal feed must also be taken into consideration. Successful action on climate change through practical actions in animal nutrition is an urgent priority, given the fact that feed composition alone can positively impact up to 80% of the total ecological footprint of animal protein such as milk, meat and eggs. It excretes a large part of what the animal eats. Given that 50-90% of feed consists of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous, these components can significantly pollute the environment, if not managed well. It’s time to ensure animal feed is produced in a way that reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions.
To deal with this, one of the best ways is to make the right decision when it comes to feeding animals. Choosing compound feed or co-products with a low carbon footprint reduces the carbon dioxide emissions of milk and meat. Another important step is to ensure the health of animals through pathways such as nutritional programs that focus on the link between gut health, the immune system and animal immunity to infectious diseases.
Correct knowledge of animal nutrition is the key to sustainable human health as well as a good environment. A strong focus on a holistic approach that includes multiple stakeholders is needed in order to search for sustainable solutions that benefit the entire ecosystem.
Written by Kumar Ranjan, founder of E-Feed
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