During a car ride home from daycare, my toddler told me, “A friend at school doesn’t eat any foods that come from animals.”

I inquired as to why, but given my son is only three and a half, was provided little explanation.

But it made me think about how I’ve watched my kiddo’s jeans slowly rise above his ankles this year. Some of his favorite pajama shirts are also starting to look like crop tops. He’s growing!

Real meat, dairy and eggs play an important role in a child’s healthy development—both for their bodies and their curious brains. In vegan diets, many of the nutrients and vitamins you get naturally from animal sourced foods need to be supplemented.

As bright as my son is, I think I would have lost him on that one. Plus, whatever his friend’s family does is simply their choice.

Instead, we talked about how even if his friend doesn’t eat those foods, animals still help make products we use every day—including many in his own classroom:

But I think his favorite thing we talked about was how animals can organically fertilize our favorite fruits and vegetables. (You know… with poop.)

What’s pretty cool is not only does each part of a farm animal serve a purpose, but during their time on the farm they also help reduce food waste. For example, a North American dairy cow’s ration contains up to 30% of byproduct feedstuff. That is, plant parts humans can’t digest or foods like baked goods or produce past its expiration date headed to the landfill.

Throughout each stage of the food system, farm animals provide value to our lives—whether we eat them or not. I think my son understood that, or at the very least, is going to enjoy telling his friends how animals help grow crops.

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