Pork, chicken diet ‘to yield environmental benefits’
MIND THE GAPS
AS THE global population swells from 7 billion in 2010 to a projected 9.8 billion in 2050, and incomes grow across the developing world, overall food demand is on course to increase by more than 50% and demand for animal-based foods by nearly 70%, says the World Resources Institute.
“Yet today, hundreds of millions of people remain hungry, agriculture already uses almost half of the world’s vegetated land and agriculture and related land-use change generate one quarter of annual greenhouse gas emissions.”
This entails closing three “great gaps” by 2050 – the food gap, the land gap and the greenhouse gas mitigation gap.
The food gap refers to the difference between the amount of food produced in 2010 and the amount necessary to meet likely demand in 2050.
“We estimate this gap to be 7.400 trillion calories, or 56% more crop calories than were produced in 2010”.
The land gap refers to the difference between global agricultural land area in 2010 and the area required in 2050 even if crop and pasture yield continue to grow at past rates. “We estimate this gap to be an area nearly twice the size of India.”
The greenhouse gas mitigation gap is the difference between the annual greenhouse gas emissions likely from agriculture and land use change in 2050.
“Holding warming below a 1.5ºc would require meeting the 4 gigaton target plus reforesting hundreds of millions of hectares of liberated agricultural land.” SIMPLY shifting from eating beef towards chicken or pork will yield major environmental benefits that can help sustainably “close food, land and greenhouse gas emission mitigation gaps” by 2050.
That’s one of recommendations made by an international sustainability think-tank this week in a report released at the climate talks in Poland.
“By 2050, the world must feed many more people, more nutritiously and ensure that agriculture contributes to poverty reduction ... all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, loss of habitat, freshwater depletion and pollution and other environmental impacts of farming,” says the report, Creating a Sustainable Food Future, by the World Resources Institute (WRI).
Ruminant (cattle, sheep and goats) meat demand was projected to soar by 88% between 2010 and 2050.
“Yet, even in the US, ruminant meats (mostly beef) provide only three percent of calories. Major environmental benefits would therefore result simply from shifting from beef towards chicken or pork.
“If global consumers shifted 30% of their expected consumption of ruminant meat in 2050, to plant-based proteins, the shift would, by itself, close half the greenhouse gas mitigation gap and nearly all of the land gap.
“Such a shift would require roughly two billion people in countries that today eat high amounts of ruminant meats to reduce their consumption on average by 40% below 2010 levels to 1.5 servings per person per week – equivalent to 2010 consumption levels in the Middle East and North Africa.
“In China, the challenge would be to moderate the growth of ruminant meat consumption.”
The WRI says the substantial shifts from beef towards chicken that have already happened in US and European diets since the 1970s show “such shifts are feasible”.
Ruminant livestock use two thirds of global agricultural land and contribute roughly half of agriculture’s production-related emissions.
Producing beef, for example, uses 20 times the land and emits 20 times the emissions as producing beans, per gram of protein.
New research, says the report, downplays health risks from cholesterol and other saturated fats but has now identified processed meats as carcinogenic and red meat as possibly carcinogenic.”
The report explores how “we can feed the world without destroying it. We can sustainably feed 10 billion people by 2050, but only with major changes to the way we grow and eat food,” it says.
The result of years of research and modelling, the report finds there is “no silver bullet – we have to do it all”.
It offers a five-course menu of solutions that suggests it is possible to produce 56% more food on the same amount of land, while lowering emissions by two-thirds.
“The solutions aren’t only about people’s diets, but also crop productivity, food waste, wild fish stocks, biofuels, breakthrough technologies, cow burps and a whole lot more.”
CATTLE, sheep and goat meat demand was projected to soar by 88% between 2010 and 2050.