Reducing food’s environmental impacts

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to Poore and Nemecek who are behind the most comprehensive analysis to date just published in Science, of the damage farming does to the planet (see reference below).

The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. 

The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.

The study created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification).

This paper has received a lot of publicity and recent articles in the Guardian can be found here and here

 

Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. (2018). “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers.” Science. 360 (6392), 987-992

List of site pages