Protein is an essential component of the human diet and, within the poorest global populations (particularly sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia), deficiency of high-quality protein still represents a significant nutritional problem. While the global population currently derives most (60%) of its dietary protein from plant sources, this varies dramatically by geographical location and is progressively decreasing in favour of animal–derived sources. There is clear evidence that inclusion of moderate amounts of animal products in low quality diets can significantly improve health and longevity. However, such products are often rich in energy and saturated fat and as such associated with chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.
Animal production is increasingly seen as an inefficient use of our global protein resources. It has been estimated that approximately 5 times as much protein is produced than is required to feed the global population but over half of this is fed to farm animals. The projected increase in the world demand for animal-derived protein (i.e. meat, fish, milk and eggs) will double by 2050, raising concerns for long-term sustainability and food security. Climate change also looks set to have a major impact on our ability to produce plant protein. Crops grown under elevated atmospheric CO2 frequently contain less protein, with rice and wheat (two major global protein sources) particularly susceptible. It has been estimated that continued reductions in plant protein contents could put a further 148 million people at risk of EAA deficiency.
The focus of this meeting is to explore how we can continue to supply the global population with sufficient high- quality protein without further contributing to climate change. In addition to exploring alternative sustainable protein sources for human consumption we will look at how use of novel ingredients may improve the sustainability of livestock (including aquatic species) production.
Professor Andrew Salter (University of Nottingham)
Professor Malcolm Bennett (University of Nottingham, Rank Prize Nutrition Committee)
Professor Peter Gregory (University of Reading, Rank Prize Nutrition Committee)