4 waste bins lined up beside one another
29 September 2020

Let’s lose our appetite for food waste


Posted by Ramiro Cabral | 29/09/2020

On September 29, we recognise the UN’s first ever International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, which urges us all to play our part in saving food. While the whole production chain must unite, writes Executive Vice-President International, Ramiro Cabral, good animal health is a critical factor in reducing loss.

As developed countries have grown wealthier, food waste has increased in many parts of the world1 while in others food security is a very real issue. In recent times, the Covid-19 pandemic has also contributed to a sharp awareness of food’s global supply, demand and waste.

Today, tackling food waste is high on the global sustainability agenda, which isn’t surprising given that the total amount of food lost and wasted every year is estimated to total 1.3bn tonnes – that’s a third of all food produced for human consumption.2 It’s an astounding figure at a time when 820 million people are going hungry every day.3

It’s an accumulative effect because food loss happens at every stage; from the farm, through to storage, transportation, processing and packaging, and when it’s retailed and eaten at home. And new research shows, 14% of food is lost throughout the production process before it even reaches the retailer.4

For livestock farmers, food loss equates to animal disease and mortality. It is reported that one in five animals is lost to preventable diseases,5 which puts unnecessary pressure on natural resources used to rear animals, contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is that with the correct care, we can make an immediate impact in reducing loss and obtaining more meat, milk and eggs with fewer resources. Take, for example, the disease, coccidiosis, in chickens – when it is properly controlled, the flock’s carbon footprint can fall by as much as five per cent.

By working with farmers and veterinarians we can reduce the number of sick animals across the whole herd or flock. But it is about more than just medicines, we are helping to increase knowledge and provide the training and tools farmers need to help their livestock thrive, in turn creating more environmentally sustainable and productive farms.

Saving food requires attention from all stakeholders. If we are to take meaningful action, producers, supply chain operators and food industry bodies all need to work together to make the food production process more efficient.

Farmers, Veterinarians, and Animal Health researchers work hand with hand advancing animal health and wellbeing, you can do your part; next time you visit the supermarket, do your bit to save food and think twice about the amount you buy – you only need as much as you’re going to eat.

1 van den Bos Verma et al. Consumers discard a lot more food than widely believed: Estimates of global food waste using an energy gap approach and affluence elasticity of food waste, 2020

2 FAO, Food loss and waste facts infographic, http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4807e.pdf (accessed September 2020)

3  UN News, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/07/1042411 (accessed September 2020)

4 FAO, The State of Food and Agriculture: Moving forward on food loss and waste reduction, http://www.fao.org/3/ca6122en/ca6122en.pdf (accessed September 2020)

5 HealthforAnimals, Animal diseases, https://healthforanimals.org/animal-disease.html (accessed September 2020)


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