Protein companies to improve human health though tackling animal disease

30 Apr 2021

Cargill, Ausvet, Heifer International and the International Poultry Council (IPC) have formed a consortium sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve livestock management and combat the threat of zoonotic diseases to both human and animal health.

In order to investigate how to best combat these diseases, consortium participants will study farming systems in Asia and Africa over the course of five years, using $33 million to enhance global health security and strengthen animal agriculture production. While the association of protein producers will prioritize their study of opportunities to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance in animals, they will also focus on reducing the spread of diseases from animals to humans such as foodborne pathogens and anthrax as well as Avian and swine influenza. Primarily, the group will channel their efforts to smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Protein companies to improve human health though tackling animal disease

"Smallholder farmers produce the majority of the world's food. By equipping them with tools to improve animal management and biosecurity, we are supporting the production of safe, healthy food that improves nutrition, while preventing the spread of pathogens that threaten global human health," said Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International.

At the same time that smallholder farmers account for the majority of agricultural production worldwide, they are also the most vulnerable to transboundary animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever. Scientists estimate that more than three out of five known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals, according to a press release from Cargill.

Chuck Warta, head of Cargill Health Technologies said the company is “confident that Cargill's global reach and research capabilities, combined with our partners' unique expertise and influence in animal agriculture, can minimize these massive threats to our global food system and to human health."

In addition to minimizing threats to human health through research, Cargill also said that, beginning next year, it plans to conduct nutrition and immune health trials on dairy, poultry, shrimp and swine operations in four countries throughout Asia and Africa to better understand and quantify the role holistic animal nutrition can play in reducing the threats of zoonotic diseases to human health.

Nutrition is not the only component of animal husbandry that interests this consortium. Ausvet will collect real-time data from farms in Indonesia and Vietnam to gain insight into disease occurrence, vaccination programs, and antibiotic usage to encourage data-driven decisions in animal health and its connection to human health. Heifer International will work with smallholder farmers in India and Kenya to improve biosecurity and animal management. IPC will put its efforts toward developing industry-wide policies and standards aimed at decreasing the antimicrobial resistance of animals within the poultry industry.

Foodborne illness and antibiotic resistance are two concerns within the animal protein industry that have been increasing in recent years. Tackling these issues will take a significant amount of research and funding from both public and private sources, but this consortium is an inaugural step into solving these ongoing issues.

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