Animal Nutrition

Two sides of a coin: Animal nutrition and human health are closely interlinked

By Kumar Ranjan, 

It has become increasingly clear over the past three decades that the majority of novel, infectious and zoonotic diseases originate in animals. It is estimated that, globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from these and approximately 60% of emerging infectious diseases that are reported globally are zoonoses . The COVID-19 pandemic, a human public health crisis resulting from a virus of potential animal origin, underlined the validity of the One Health concept in understanding and confronting global health risks. In brief, One Health is a collaborative, multi-sectoral, and transdisciplinary approach — working at the local, regional, national, and global levels — with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

How animal nutrition affects human health?

Humans need protein for various body functions including muscle & cell development and major protein sources are naturally found in animals. Animal-source foods are particularly appropriate for combating malnutrition and a range of nutritional deficiencies. Recent studies have shown that post the pandemic, protein demand has considerably increased as protein is an excellent ally for fighting the COVID-19 infection. Current protein demand for the 7.3 billion inhabitants of the world is approximately 202 million tonnes globally.

You are what you eat. This phrase is used to encourage us think hard about our food choices. And when we think about what we eat, what is the impact of the nutrition that is provided to the animals that we, as humans, will consume? Animal nutrition has a direct impact not only on animal health but also indirectly through animal products on human health and through excreta on the environment. Animals also are susceptible to some diseases and environmental hazards. Because of this, they can sometimes serve as early warning signs of potential human illness.

How animal nutrition addresses the threat to our environment?

A product’s carbon footprint is becoming part of the ‘license to produce’, and hence a purchase argument for buyers. Buyers are asking livestock farmers to provide insight into the carbon footprint of milk and meat. In that way they can demonstrate that supplied products have a lower environmental impact. Protein harvesting from animals can be taxing to the environment and human health due to contamination but it is only because industries in developing countries lack good practices of harvesting animals.

Emissions from India rank third in the global list, accounting for 2.46 billion metric tonnes of carbon or 6.8% of the total global emissions. India’s per capita carbon emissions are, however, still low at 1.84 tonnes compared to the United States’ 16.21 tonnes The right choice of animal feed reduces CO2 footprint. Using compound feed or co-products with a low carbon footprint reduces the CO2 footprint of milk and meat.

Keeping animals healthy by means of nutritional programmes based on an increased understanding of the close correlation between gut health, the immune system and the animal’s resilience to infectious diseases and environmental stressors is a major need to address the environmental issues.


The right animal nutrition cannot just bring balance but also solve the problem of food security. It is increasingly clear that resolution of complex global problems around health and the environment requires a multi-disciplinary approach but it starts with focus on providing nutritious diet for our livestock.

(The author is Founder & CEO, E-Feed. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)