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Importance of livestock-derived foods in the first 1,000 days of life

The report highlights that there is great potential for food produced from livestock to contribute to better health in low-income populations.

Livestock Report cover page

According to this review by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security Global, efforts to limit or reduce the consumption of meat, milk and eggs should exclude pregnant and breastfeeding women and babies under the age of two, especially in low-income settings where other sources of protein and micronutrients are not available or not customarily used.

Deficiencies in key micronutrients, such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc, are common among children and pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries. Consuming livestock-derived products such as meat, milk and eggs in the first 1,000 days of life are a viable option to improve a child’s prospects of growth, cognition and development, the report states.

The report sets out a framework to understand the ways in which livestock-derived foods positively or negatively influence nutrition and provides up-to-date information on the absolute and relative contributions of meat, milk and eggs to human diets - and in particular children as well as pregnant and lactating women - and the prevalence of undernutrition in developing regions.

It concludes that the proportion of global livestock production needed to meet the nutritional needs of all the world’s undernourished infants in their first 1,000 days and pregnant/lactating mothers is so small that this amount could easily be protected through equitable redistribution, even in the face of environmentally-motivated overall reductions in the production of livestock-derived foods.

ILRI is a co-founder of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) ‒ a strategic alliance with two other co-founders: The University of Edinburgh (through The Roslin Institute) and Scotland's Rural College (SRUC).

This report is very important as it underscores the critical role of livestock in meeting nutritional requirements of the most vulnerable people (often women and children) in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. The work currently underway within CTLGH aims at generating genomic tools and associated resources in tropical dairy and poultry to improve productivity and resilience of farmed animals owned by small holder farmers.

Professor Appolinaire DjikengDirector of CTLGH


The report is available on the CGIAR website.

Author information

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works to improve food security, to reduce poverty and to protect the environment in developing countries through research on better and more sustainable uses of livestock by the poor. ILRI is a member of CGIAR—a global research partnership for a food-secure future. ILRI advocates science- and evidence-based approaches to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London that engages governments, the private sector, civil society and members in open debates and private discussions about the most significant developments in international affairs. Each year, the institute runs more than 300 private and public events in London and internationally with partners.

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