The link between food and health needs to be maximised by farmers in Ireland in order to drive expansion in the agri-food sector, Professor Patrick Wall has urged.
"Farmers need to realise that they are in the health business," Prof Wall insisted.
"As the emphasis on the relationship between diet and disease increases, paying attention to the nutritional profile of primary agricultural produce is key to ensuring farmers remain in the health business," he added.
The Professor of Public Health in UCD was speaking at the Women and Agriculture conference on the Lyrath Estate, Kilkenny.
As primary producers, farmers had a huge responsibility for the stakeholders further along the food chain and could influence consumption patterns, he told the conference delegates.
"Some countries would die for the imagery we have on our doorstep," he maintained.
"Our system of farming and our countryside is a marketing dream and we have undersold it completely," he added.
Dr Mary Flynn, chief specialist in public health nutrition with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, echoed Professor Wall's comments.
Dr Flynn explained to the conference that strict new rules on health claims for food products were good news for Irish farmers.
"Two of the three approved disease reduction claims can be used for dairy produce, along with five of the six approved children's development and health claims," she said.
"Furthermore, two of the children's claims are also ideal for beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs."