Monday, June 27

Meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production, study finds | Meat industry

Global food production is responsible for a third of all global warming gases emitted by human activity, and the use of animals for meat causes twice as much pollution as plant-based food production, according to a major study new.

The entire food production system, such as the use of agricultural machinery, the spraying of fertilizers and the transport of products, generates 17.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the research. This huge release of gases that fuels the climate crisis is more than double that of entire US emissions. and it accounts for 35% of all global emissions, the researchers said.

“Emissions are on the higher end than we expected, it was a bit surprising,” said Atul Jain, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois and a co-author on the paper. published in Nature Food. “This study shows the complete cycle of the food production system, and policymakers may want to use the results to think about how to control greenhouse gas emissions.”

Raising and slaughtering animals for food is far worse for the climate than growing and processing fruits and vegetables for people to eat, the research found, confirming previous findings about the enormous impact that meat production, particularly beef, has in the environment.

The use of cows, pigs and other animals for food, as well as for feeding livestock, is responsible for 57% of all emissions from food production, according to the research, and 29% comes from growing food from vegetable origin. The rest comes from other land uses, such as cotton or rubber. Beef alone accounts for a quarter of emissions from food farming and farming.

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The production of food of animal origin contributes to the majority of emissions

Grazing animals require a large amount of land, which is often cleared by clearing forests, as well as large tracts of additional land to grow their food. The document estimates that most of the world’s farmland is used to feed livestock, rather than people. Livestock also produce large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

“All of these things combined mean that the emissions are very high,” said Xiaoming Xu, another researcher at the University of Illinois and lead author on the paper. “To produce more meat it is necessary to feed more animals, which generates more emissions. You need more biomass to feed the animals in order to get the same amount of calories. It’s not very efficient. “

The difference in emissions between meat and plant production is marked: to produce 1 kg of wheat, 2.5 kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. Meanwhile, a single kilo of beef generates 70 kilograms of emissions. The researchers said that societies should be aware of this important discrepancy when addressing the climate crisis.

“I am a strict vegetarian and part of the motivation for this study was to discover my own carbon footprint, but it is not our intention to force people to change their diets,” said Jain. “A lot of this comes down to personal choice. You can’t just impose your views on others. But if people are concerned about climate change, they should seriously consider changing their eating habits. “

The researchers created a database that provided a consistent emission profile for 171 crops and 16 animal products, drawing data from more than 200 countries. They found that South America is the region with the highest share of animal food emissions, followed by South and Southeast Asia and then China. Food-related emissions have grown rapidly in China and India as increasing wealth and cultural changes have led more young people in these countries to adopt meat-based diets.

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The paper’s calculations on the climate impact of meat are higher than previous estimates: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has said approximately 14% of all emissions come from meat and dairy production. The climate crisis is also itself a cause of hunger, and a recent study found that a third of global food production will be at risk by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate.

Scientists have consistently emphasized that if dangerous global warming is to be avoided, a major rethinking of eating habits and agricultural practices is required. Meat production has now expanded to the point that now there are approximately three chickens for every human being on the planet.

Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at Columbia University who was not involved in the research, said the paper is a “very good study” that should be given “due attention” in upcoming UN climate talks. in Scotland.

“A fundamental unknown in global agriculture is its impact on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ziska. “While previous estimates have been made, this effort represents a gold standard that will serve as an essential benchmark for years to come.”

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