Circular Food Systems: Towards Human and Planetary Health

Wednesday, March 30, 2022 - 12:25pm

Perspectives in Global Development Seminar
Speaker: Hannah van Zanten
Location: Emerson 135 and Zoom
NOTE: Date has been updated. The seminar will be held in-person on March 30

The need to transform the food system to avoid exceeding the Earth’s biophysical limit is widely recognized. A redesign towards circular food systems is a promising solution to achieve healthy diets from sustainable food systems. In circular food systems the production of plant biomass for human consumption is prioritized, losses are prevented, by-products are re-used as fertilizer or animal feed, and farm animals are mainly kept to convert human inedible by-products and grass resources into valuable animal sourced foods (ASF). Farm animals are therefore largely decoupled from arable land use and could provide about a third of the proteins we need on a daily basis. Although the quantity of ASF produced in circular food systems is largely in line with dietary recommendations such as the EAT-Lancet or European Food-Based-Dietary-Guidelines, it doesn’t produce the specific ASF recommended. In particular, guidelines recommend larger quantities of poultry meat over beef and pork, while circular food systems produce mainly milk, dairy-beef and pork. Our results furthermore demonstrate that a redesign towards circular food systems will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and land use. This redesign could set current biomass production on a path towards staying within the planetary boundaries.  In this seminar Dr. van Zanten will discuss if the proposed intake of animal protein in dietary guidelines are compatible with the adoption of circular food systems respecting the environment.

About the speaker

Dr. Hannah van Zanten is an Associate Professor at the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University and Visiting Professor at Cornell University. It is her ambition to unravel how circular food systems can contribute to producing healthy foods for a growing population within the carrying capacity of the Earth. Dr. Hannah van Zanten graduated cum laude for both her MSc Animal Sciences and PhD thesis at Wageningen University. Together with her team she developed a European circular food systems model (CiFoS) which is now extending to a global model. The model selects a combination of plant-based proteins (e.g. grains and pulses) and animal-based proteins (produced with the biomass losses) to yield a nutrient-adequate diet, produced within the planetary boundaries. This model enables Dr. van Zanten to provide a much-needed food systems perspective for creating sustainable food systems ( Hannah is the prize winner of the foodshot 2 precision protein groundbreaker prize 2021.

About the seminar series

The Perspectives in Global Development seminars are held Wednesdays from 12:25 – 1:15 p.m. eastern time during the semester. The series will be presented in a hybrid format with some speakers on campus and others appearing via Zoom. All seminars are shown in Emerson 135. Students, faculty and the general public are welcome to attend. The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Global Development, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the School of Integrative Plant Science as part of courses IARD 6960, NTRES 6960, PLSCS 6960 and AEM 6960.