Past Event

DxD: The Quagmire of Animal Foods for Human and Planetary Health

March 5, 2024
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Online Event

The subject of animal-source foods (ASF) has become a scientific and political quagmire, with divergent interpretations of the scientific literature and intractable value judgments concerning their consumption for human and planetary health. Producing certain ASF can tax land, biodiversity, and water resources and drive rising greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the system in which these animals are raised. To lessen the impact of these foods on the environment and climate, some experts within the nutrition and climate science community suggest that we can meet global nutrient requirements from a highly plant-based diet containing just 14% of calories from ASFs. Limiting the consumption of ASFs, particularly those associated with diet-related non-communicable disease risk, has potential benefits for human and planetary health.

Others propose that limiting ASFs may not provide all the necessary nutrients for human health, and eliminating ASF consumption among key populations could be detrimental to growth, development, and health, particularly in poverty-stricken environments in which the milieu of infectious disease burden on individuals is taxing on physiological systems. There is also the issue of livelihoods – many depend on animals for income generation, as well as preserving long-standing cultures and traditions of humans and animals living in kinship.

Yet, we cannot disentangle how difficult it will be to fulfill the nutritional needs of 10 billion people living on the planet. There are already massive injustices and inequities in people’s ability to access healthy diets. With the current business-as-usual response to climate mitigation and climate-related extreme events, and continued environmental and natural resource constraints and degradation, raising animals and foods to feed them will become even more complex, further exacerbating inequities in who gets access to what types of foods, when, and through what means.

In this DxD series, we will delve into all sides, bringing health, livestock, and climate experts together to find a way forward that is evidence-based and policy-sound. Join us as we disentangle this “wicked” issue of how to the world could ensure there is more equitable consumption of ASF, how ASF could be raised more environmentally sustainable, and the future technologies that may disrupt the ASF sector, like cultivated meats.


Jessica Fanzo, Professor of Climate and Food; Director, Food for Humanity Initiative; Interim Director, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), The Columbia Climate School


Mario Herrero, livestock/climate science expert
Lora Iannotti, nutrition and diet expert
Robyn Alders, veterinarian/animal health and welfare
Steve Stratford, Kansas cattleman
Donald Moore, Global Dairy Federation

This event is part of the Dialogue Across Difference Initiative (DxD), designed to foster a resilient and inclusive community of learners among students, faculty, and staff and to engage with diverse perspectives and navigate challenging conversations with a shared commitment to mutual understanding and respect.


Contact Information

Natalie Unwin-Kuruneri