July 31, 2017

Recap of pre-conference symposium hosted by ASN-ASAS

Did you miss "The Role of Animal Sourced Foods in Ensuring Food Security and National Security" during the Annual Meeting? Here's a recap of this pre-conference symposium.

By: Dr. Casey L. Bradley, ASAS Public Policy Committee

A joint symposium on “The Role of Animal Sourced Foods in Ensuring Food Security and National Security” was hosted by the ASAS Public Policy Committee and the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) during the 2017 Annual Meeting, held in Baltimore, Maryland. During the all-day symposium, held July 8, seven speakers (Table 1) discussed different aspects of food and national security while focusing on the benefits of meat and animal agriculture.

Table 1. ASAS-ASN Preconference Symposium Speakers and Titles of Presentations.



Teresa Davis, Ph.D.

USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center

Baylor College of Medicine


Nutritional and social importance of animal sourced proteins.


Johanna Mendelson Forman, Ph.D.

School of International Service

American University

Conflict cuisine: An introduction to war and peace around the dinner table.



Elsa A. Murano, Ph.D.

Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, Texas A&M University

Global perspective on addressing food and nutritional security.

Craig Gundersen, Ph.D.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Food insecurity and health outcomes.

Andrew Jones, Ph.D.

University of Michigan


Small-scale fisheries and livestock production in low-middle-income countries: Implication of malnutrition.

Larry Reynolds, Ph.D.

North Dakota State University


Nutrition and agriculture sustainability.

Penny Riggs, Ph.D.

Texas A&M University


“Omics” technologies and their potential impact for food security.


ASAS Public Policy Chair and Invited Speaker, Dr. Penny Riggs, gave opening remarks on the program. Following, ASAS Public Policy Member Dr. Teresa Davis gave a passionate and informative presentation on the benefits of meat in our diets. Although only about 2% of the U.S. population is vegan, Dr. Davis indicated that public media often suggest a larger percentage of the population consumes only plants. She reflected on the many nutrient benefits of meat in addition to that of protein. Dr. Davis presented data showing shifts in dietary intake over the last few decades with increased caloric intake due to increased consumption of refined flours, cereals, fats and oils, rather than animal products. Reflecting on the obesity epidemic, she discussed the importance of high protein diets to aid in weight loss while preserving lean mass and the ability of higher protein intake to help build muscle after resistance exercise. Furthermore, Dr. Davis touched on the need of the elderly population to consume more protein in their diets and suggested that the RDA requirement for the elderly should be increased from 0.8 to 1.0-1.2 g per kg per day, with lean meat being advantageous due to its lower caloric value to protein content. To finish up her presentation Dr. Davis discussed new data which suggest a low risk of meat in the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Changing gears, Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman discussed the role of conflict in escalating food insecurity around the globe. She noted that while food insecurity will continue to increase over the next ten years in certain regions, in more developed societies and younger generations, food has become a new addiction. Her examples showed that a large global population remains food insecure either due to poverty or war. Another consideration is income growth in developing countries and countries, such as China, that are investing in land around the globe to ensure food security for its population. She also discussed the introduction of culture through food, citing examples of refugees from different wars introducing new foods to the USA, noting the prevalence of immigrant food service workers. These examples suggest that food can help them succeed and increase their income potential. Additionally, Dr. Mendelson Forman highlighted the use of food as a tool in modern day politics but we still have a long way to go for making the entire global population “food secure.”  

Dr. Elsa Murano discussed the different opportunities and humanitarian programs being implemented around the world to combat undernutrition and food insecurity. She gave examples of the small holder farmer as key to success for many countries. She described three options developing countries have for nutritional security:

  1. Imports only – but if they have nothing to trade or the value of oil, for example, is worthless then they cannot afford to buy enough food, resulting in social consequences, such as mass migration of their youth.

  2. Through industrial production – which capacity is limiting, untrained local population, thus outside labor brought in, and demand for feed and water can degrade natural resources, and also requires significant financial investment and risk.

  3. Through small-holder transformation – which can create further economic growth around supporting infrastructure and new income.

Throughout her presentation Dr. Murano highlighted the different humanitarian programs and the benefits they have for improving nutrition for children, and encouraging success for woman entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Before the break, Dr. Craig Gundersen gave an energetic presentation on food security and health in our developed society. He described food security as a healthcare issue affected by determinants, such as resources, income, household structure, and other items. One paradoxical example showed that with a grandparent living in the house, children are less likely to be food insecure, but the grandparent becomes less secure. He also made a strong case for SNAP as a good benefit because it reduces hunger and should remain in place even though the proposed new Farm Bill would dramatically decrease funding.

Dr. Andrew Jones discussed the implications of small-scale fisheries and livestock production in relation to malnutrition. Reflecting on similar points from other speakers, Dr. Jones noted that the majority of malnourished children are in developing countries while the majority of the obese population is in developed countries. Jones went into depth on how raising livestock in developing countries alters how children eat, but does not necessarily prevent “stunting” if, for example, unsanitary conditions accompany access to food sources. He further discussed priorities needed to promote healthy animal-sourced food consumption among at-risk populations. Priorities included: food affordability, education, promotion of behavior change to healthy diets, organ meats for children to reduce anemia, reduction of food waste, improvements of food safety and preservation, and how animal-sourced foods and its industrialization impact economies and food security.

The last two speakers, Dr. Larry Reynolds and Dr. Penny Riggs, brought the center of attention back to animal science and agriculture for addressing food security issues. Dr. Reynolds discussed the need to make sure we take precautions as an industry to make sure meat remains meat and doesn’t face the labeling crisis milk has today with other products, such as soy “milk” being confused with a dairy product. He advocated a need for animal scientists to continue to raise our voices to get our messages out to policy makers to help avoid or eliminate regulations around much-needed technologies that only increase food insecurity. Furthermore, he discussed the need for improvements in current and new areas of animal production, such as aquaculture, to help feed a growing population in regard to industry partnerships, attracting talented young people to our industry and educating the general public.

Dr. Riggs concluded the symposium with a discussion of the role of “omics” technologies for creating innovation and opportunities for improving sustainability and food security alike. She noted the need for continued communication with the public about the safety and efficacy of these technologies, reiterating points made throughout the day’s symposium.

In conclusion, the speakers participated in a panel discussion with audience members about the day’s topics. An additional objective was set by Dr. Riggs to discuss future needs and direction of the ASAS Public Policy Committee. Several resounding comments addressed the important need to communicate the nutritional value and importance of animal-sourced foods to the general public and policy makers, leverage the value of animal agriculture to the economic infrastructure of our states, as well as continue to attract young, talented students, and partner with outside organizations and our allied industry.

If you did not register for the Annual Meeting, you may wish to purchase the 2017 virtual meeting to gain access to recordings from this symposium.

Photo of the symposium speakers (left to right): 

Elsa Murano, Craig Gundersen, Johanna Mendelson Forman, Teresa Davis, Penny Riggs, Larry Reynolds, Andrew Jones