Pork, chicken diet ‘to yield en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits’

Saturday Star - - METRO - SHEREE BEGA [email protected]


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.

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