Evidence-Based, Simplified Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies


2023 United Nations FAO Report: Meat Is Essential

united nations meat is essential

2023 United Nations FAO Report: Meat Is Essential

united nations meat is essential

The UN Says Meat Is Essential

In a shocking new 2023 report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) released documentation stating that meat, eggs, and milk are essential sources of nutrients, especially for the most vulnerable groups. This conflicting information undermines all of their previous statements promoting plant-based foods as real health foods and the implications that reducing animal agriculture is a critical priority for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s discuss all the information released in this UN FAO report as well as debunk any of the risks outlined in regard to meat consumption.


The 2023 UN FAO Report Background

Contribution of terrestrial animal source food to healthy diets for improved nutrition and health outcomes: An evidence and policy overview on the state of knowledge and gaps is the 296-page report released by the UN FAO. The report details the importance of nutrient-dense meat inclusion, especially in areas that face malnutrition and that are less suited or unsuitable for crop production. While it still makes the argument that livestock agriculture contributes to a range of challenges, the basis of the assessment is to “support the COAG’s Sub-Committee on Livestock in its quest to optimize the role of livestock, including their contributions to poverty alleviation, food security and nutrition, sustainable livelihoods, and the realization of the 2030 Agenda.” 


During the First Session of the COAG’s Sub-Committee on Livestock in 2022, governments agreed to consider the impact of livestock policies and legislations on nutrition outcomes as well as update national food-based dietary guidelines so that they’re adequately considering animal foods. This report addresses that animal foods contribute to healthy diets for optimal human health at every life stage.


The Report’s Key Findings


The main assertion of this report is that animal food sources, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, are essential to address the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition targets for 2025. These nutrition goals were developed in order to minimize developmental stunting experienced among children under five years old, babies with low birth weights, anemia in women of reproductive age, as well as childhood obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases and obesity among adults.


According to the UN FAO, this is the most comprehensive analysis of the benefits and risks of consuming animal foods and is based on data from over 500 scientific papers.


In summary, here are some of the important key findings of the UN FAO’s beneficial assessment of animal foods (referred to as terrestrial animal source food, TASFs, in the document) based on each category:


Animal Food Nutrients and Health Effects

un fao meat critical nutrients for health


  • Nutrition: Animal foods provide a higher-quality protein source compared to other foods. Specific amino acids and bioactive factors that are critical for overall wellness are primarily found in animal foods. These include carnitine, creatine, taurine, anserine, and hydroxyproline. The ratios of essential fatty acids and long-chain fatty acids found in animal foods are required for proper cognition throughout all life stages.
  • Bioavailability: Red meat-derived iron and zinc are more bioavailable and easier to digest than those from plant sources. Milk is recognized for its high calcium content and other important nutrients. Eggs feature high choline content in addition to some long-chain fatty acids. Animal foods are a great source of selenium, B12, and choline. They also state, “Consumption of TASF has been shown to counteract the effects of anti-nutrients found in plant-based foods.” 
  • Positive health impacts: Eating animal foods can have positive impacts on nutrition, health, and cognition. The report lists specific benefits that include neurological disease prevention, improved bone health, better immune system function, and more. All of the evidence suggests that animal food intake shows significant improvements throughout all life stages ranging from improved childhood development to reducing the risk of several chronic conditions in adults. Robust evidence shows that egg consumption doesn’t increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.    


Policy Recommendations for Animal Foods

un fao meat recommendations policy


  • Policy updates: Most recommendations on animal food consumption are linked to micronutrient needs across the entire population. There are currently no recommendations specifically for animal food consumption that addresses the risks associated with multiple forms of malnutrition. Environmental sustainability recommendations were only made for eight upper-middle and high-income countries.  

Animal Foods Safety and Food-Borne Illnesses

  • Improving animal food safety: Existing conventional animal agricultural practices and increased consumption of processed foods contribute to the increase of food-borne disease risks. Food-safety burdens must be addressed through improved sanitation and strengthening national food-control systems. 

Emerging Topics

  • Meat alternatives: Evidence suggests that lab-grown, or cell-cultured, meat and plant-based food can’t replace animal foods in terms of nutritional composition. More research is needed to determine the safety of lab-grown meat at an industrial scale. Plant-based meat alternatives are decent in some nutrients but are high in other undesirable ingredients such as sugar.
  • Insects: Insect consumption offers essential nutrients but evidence shows differing nutritional outcomes compared to animal food consumption. There are also cultural barriers and individual preferences that interfere with this for consumer approval.   

Importance of Animal Foods Throughout All Life Stages

meat essential nutrients for health


The UN FAO also included some great resources regarding the importance of animal foods and how they contribute to healthy diets throughout every life stage. Here are the categories and benefits outlined:


Pregnant and Lactating Women & Infants and Young Children

meat benefits pregnant women infants


Iron and vitamin A are some of the most common micronutrient deficiencies found particularly in children and pregnant women across the globe. 56% of infants and young children are deficient in at least one of these micronutrients: iron, zinc, and vitamin A. 32 million pregnant women are anemic worldwide while millions more suffer from vitamin A, iron, folate, zinc, and/or iodine deficiency.


The macro- and micronutrients found in animal foods help support pregnant and lactating women by:

  • Increasing blood volume
  • Breastmilk quality
  • Lowering the risk of infection
  • Bone preservation
  • Iron deficiency anemia prevention
  • Essential fatty acids and blood cholesterol for healthy physiological function
  • Preventing low birth weight 
  • Producing full-term infants


The macro- and micronutrients found in animal foods help support infants and young children by:

  • Optimal vision health
  • Healthy bone growth
  • Healthy growth
  • Cognitive development
  • Immune-system functioning


School-Age Children and Adolescents

un meat benefits children teenagers


Studies have shown that the consumption of milk and dairy products by school-age children and adolescents increases height while reducing the rate of obesity and being overweight. When adolescent girls begin to menstruate, their iron requirements increase. Foods rich in iron, such as meat, prevent any potential deficiency concerns.


The macro- and micronutrients found in animal foods help support school-age children by:

  • Immune-system functioning
  • Healthy growth
  • Normal cognitive functioning and brain development


The macro- and micronutrients found in animal foods help support adolescents by:

  • Reproductive maturation
  • Normal cognitive development and neuroplasticity


Adults and Older Adults

un meat benefits adults seniors


Eating milk and dairy products reduces the risks for all-cause mortality and other chronic conditions in adults. Studies show that egg consumption isn’t linked to an increased risk for stroke or coronary heart disease. Consuming moderate amounts of unprocessed red meat has minimal health risks and helps support iron requirements in adulthood. Certain nutrients from animal foods offer neuroprotective properties, bone health support, and other benefits for adults over 60 years old.


The macro- and micronutrients found in animal foods help support adults by:

  • Cognitive maintenance and healthy nutrient levels
  • Immune-system functioning
  • Necessary ratio of essential fatty acids and blood cholesterol to maintain health functions


The macro- and micronutrients found in animal foods help support older adults by:

  • Better bone health
  • Immune-system functioning
  • Memory and cognitive preservation
  • Muscle-mass maintenance 
  • Necessary ratio of essential fatty acids and blood cholesterol to maintain health functions


Debunking the Risks

While much of this report shows overwhelmingly positive support for meat, dairy, and egg consumption, it also outlines certain risks. Let’s take a closer look at these claims and debunk any misconceptions:


Claim One

Claim: “The evidence base for red meat consumption in adults… shows some increased risk of chronic disease associated with consumption of 23g per day of red meat, and 2g per day of processed meat. However other studies have shown non-significant effects of beef on chronic disease biomarkers… High intake of red and processed meat and of animal saturated fats may include deleterious effects.”


Debunking: Studies that link red meat consumption to health issues such as cardiovascular disease and cancer are nearly all observational with many other factors (e.g., other foods in the diet, smoking, and lifestyle considerations) unaccounted for. Many of these studies are based on self-reported consumption which will include a margin for human error. The reported effect sizes in these scientific papers are also generally small. A new study scrutinizes the existing studies correlating meat with negative health outcomes, showcasing very weak evidence found between unprocessed red meat and various chronic conditions.  


Claim Two

Claim: “Some fats, such as saturated fatty acids and trans fats, have been implicated in negative human health outcomes. Dietary guidelines generally recommend limiting saturated fats to approximately 10% of total energy intake, although the evidence base is mixed… Another systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs and prospective cohort studies in children and adolescents… showed that diets with reduced saturated fat content compared to control diets significantly reduced total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and diastolic blood pressure. There was no evidence for adverse effects on growth or anthropometry.”


Debunking: Saturated fat is not a driver for heart disease and other chronic conditions. Many emerging studies are disproving the demonization of saturated fat, showing that existing studies may show correlation but do not prove causation. There are also many misconceptions about cholesterol with fear-mongering messages around high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. As of 2015, there is no longer an upper limit from the USDA for cholesterol and dietary fat. Heart disease was rare before the 20th century, yet today, an estimated 17 million people globally die every year from cardiovascular disease. 


The body requires cholesterol. 25% of all cholesterol is in the brain, making the brain 60% fat. If the body has too little cholesterol, it will die. More than 80% of cholesterol in the body is made by the liver and not from food consumed. The body requires cholesterol to support muscle repair, absorb vitamin D from sun exposure, and other cell functions. That’s why increased cholesterol levels are present when there’s cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol isn’t causing further damage but plays a vital role alongside other nutrients to combat these issues. Good dietary fats and cholesterol don’t cause atherosclerosis. It’s caused by chronic, out-of-control inflammation from metabolic syndrome due to poor food and lifestyle choices. High LDL markers don’t matter in isolation. If LDL is high but HDL is also high, the risk of cardiovascular events lessens.        


Closing Thoughts on the UN FAO Report

un fao nutritional trends by region


Even the UN found that the most vulnerable populations need meat, eggs, and milk for specific nutrients that are limited in plant-based foods. Their comprehensive assessment goes even further by showcasing evidence that many animal foods are not only safe with minimal risks, but are actually essential for every life stage. While they may still believe the biased epidemiology studies that red meat, saturated fat, and high cholesterol are correlated with health risks and disease, they include powerful data that really highlights the importance of meat, eggs, and dairy in the human diet.


If the most vulnerable populations need these foods and there’s significant evidence supporting this requirement for all populations, then why are we recommended to go plant-based? Why has the UN recommended that upper-middle to high-income countries make the sacrifice to go plant-based in order to achieve better health and support the environment, despite all of this data? And why are we recommending no-meat days in our public school systems, when the most vulnerable are children?


Since this report has illuminated many health benefits and other positive data regarding animal food consumption, we hope that some of this research is able to make it to mainstream nutrition and policymaking.


Work With Our Trusted Carnivore Diet Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioners

The Nutrition with Judy practice is honored to be a trusted carnivore diet practitioner support serving clients from around the globe. We’re passionate about helping our clients achieve root-cause healing in order to lead the best quality of life possible that’s nearly symptom-free. Our team is dedicated to educating our community about the incredible benefits of the carnivore diet. We welcome you to explore our free resources and are always available to support you through personalized protocols. Our Symptom Burden Assessment (SBA) is the perfect starting point for discovering your root cause and is required to work with our team— you can learn more in-depth about this powerful tool here.

Start your root-cause healing journey today and contact us any time with any questions or concerns.


DISCLAIMER: This content is for educational purposes only. While we are board-certified in holistic nutrition and are nutritional therapy practitioners, we are not providing medical advice. Whenever you start a new diet or protocol, always consult with your trusted practitioner first.

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  • Diana Thornwell
    June 15, 2023 at 11:13 am

    this is fantastic news but there will still be a majority of at risk people that will not be able to afford these foods until something is done to lower the cost of meat and dairy!! I have family members that get few food stamps, and work full time jobs and STILL cant afford to buy expensive meat, dairy and eggs and are forced to feed their family on cheap processed food with zero nutrition to support the health of their children!!!!

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