While it might make sense intuitively – after all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice. But is increasing rate of food production causing an impact on the environment? Searchinger, T. et al. Just under half (44%) of the world’s beef comes from the dairy sector. Some fruit and vegetables tend to fall into this category. Both food fraud and lack of traceability are direct consequences of the production issue. If we were to fly one kilogram of asparagus over this distance, this would emit around 11 kilograms of CO2eq [10,000km * 1.13 kilograms CO2eq per tonne-kilometer for flying / 1000 = 11.3 kg CO2eq per kg]. Meat processing environmental, health and safety guidelines. Environmental issues play a big role in the food industry. The number of species evaluated and threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List is available from their summary statistics found here. This is equivalent to 0.35% of the total footprint of the 60 kilograms of CO2eq per kilogram of beef. This article focuses on the environmental impacts of food. ‘Land use’ here is the sum of land use change, savannah burning and organic soil cultivation (plowing and overturning of soils). Food wastage is not only the wastage of the end product, i.e. Note that if you use the median footprint, this figure is 25 kgCO2eq – more than 60 times higher than peas. Intensive pumping in the agriculturally prosperous regions in India has actually led to the depletion of the groundwater table. CO2e is then derived by multiplying the mass of emissions of a specific greenhouse gas by its equivalent GWP100 factor. The median footprint for beef is 25 kgCO2eq.29 But some producers have a much higher footprint: ten percent emit more than 105 kgCO2eq per 100 grams. If you buy from your local farmer – let’s assume you walk there, and have zero transport emissions – your beef footprint is 59.8 kilograms CO2eq per kilogram [we calculate this as 60kg – 0.2kg]. To express all greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq), they are each weighted by their global warming potential (GWP) value. It all comes at an environmental cost. German, R. N., Thompson, C. E., & Benton, T. G. (2017). How do the distributions between plant-based and meat-based sources compare? CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. We can look at these comparisons based on mass: the freshwater withdrawals required to produce one kilogram of food product. Food production contributes, for example, to climate change, eutrophication … The red curve shows the sum of all protein products. In the visualizations here we show the scarcity-weighted water footprint of foods, measured in liters (L) per kilogram, 100 grams of protein, and per 1000 kilocalories. Relationships among multiple aspects of agriculture’s environmental impact and productivity: a meta‐analysis to guide sustainable agriculture. The food system and losses data in the study by Poore and Nemecek (2018) relates to the year 2010. Vilma Sandström et al. This means livestock. 1.0 Environmental Issues:(industrial waste) In Food Industry during food production ,processing and handling different types of wastes from different industries have impact on the environment . Eating less meat and dairy, or switching from ruminant meat to chicken, pork, or plant-based alternatives will reduce your footprint by much more. But consumers want them year-round. & Steinfeld, H. (2013). Species can be filtered by threat categories in the IUCN’s search function here. If you want a lower-carbon diet, eating less meat is nearly always better than eating the most sustainable meat. The carbon footprint of EU diets: where do emissions come from? Environmental Impact Auditing of Food Processing Industry in ... Nigeria: The Case of Climate and Air Quality ... Ogbonnaya Chukwu, Emmanuel Sunday Akin Ajisegiri, Kolawole Rasheed Onifade and Onemayin David Jimoh ... School of Engineering and Hospido et al. GWP100 values are used to combine greenhouse gases into a single metric of emissions called carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq). We license all charts under Creative Commons BY. This 25 kgCO2eq figure represents the median emissions from beef production. Animal products therefore accounted for [514 / (514 + 2370) * 100] = 18% of the world’s calories. Around 56% of global beef production comes from dedicated beef herds; and 44% from dairy herds. This is especially true for foods where there is a strong emphasis on ‘freshness’: for these products, transport speed is a priority. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of ‘carbon dioxide equivalents’. First published in January 2020. Emissions are also lower than those from the best cheese and pork (4.5 kgCO2eq); and slightly lower or comparable to those from the lowest-footprint chicken (2.4 kgCO2eq).31. Animal products therefore accounted for [32 / (32 + 49) * 100] = 39% of the world’s protein. Let’s compare the highest-impact producers (the top ten percent) of plant-based proteins with the lowest-impact producers (the bottom ten percent) of meat and dairy. Apart from the consumption of water, the cultivation of rice also releases methane into the atmosphere which in turn contributes to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(25), 6506-6511. It recommends a largely plant-based diet, with small, occasional allowances for meat, dairy, and sugar. In this case, transport by boat is too slow, leaving air travel as the only feasible option. The major uncertainties – and explanation for discrepancies – in these assessments is the allocation of ‘rangelands’: in some regions it can be difficult to accurately quantify how much of rangelands are used for grazing, and how much is free from human pressure. In this case, transport by boat is too slow, leaving air travel as the only feasible option. The European Environment Agency reports that the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were approximately 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. We’ve previously looked at the breakdown of carbon footprints for different food products. Latest data from the World Resource Institute’s CAIT Climate Data Explorer reports that aviation accounts for 1.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The role of seasonality in lettuce consumption: a case study of environmental and social aspects. Note that species can have multiple threats; this therefore does not mean agriculture was the only threat for such species. To get the same amount of protein from beef, emissions would be nearly 90 times higher, at 35 kgCO2eq.26. It is often hard for consumers to identify foods that have travelled by air because they’re rarely labeled as such. But beyond this, you can have a larger difference by focusing on what you eat, rather than ‘eating local’. Emissions from cultivated organic soils (4%) are split between human food and animal feed. In this study the impacts of two food processing industries on land use and land capability, noise and vibration, environmentally sensitive What Europeans ate has the biggest impact on their footprint. Reducing emissions from food production will be one of our greatest challenges in the coming decades. Most of the variation between countries comes from how much meat and dairy products they eat. One particularly problematic food … Very little food is air-freighted; it accounts for only 0.16% of food miles.22 But for the few products which are transported by air, the emissions can be very high: it emits 50 times more CO2eq than boat per tonne kilometer.23. Good pasture quality is also important: climate has a strong impact on this, but effective management practices can also make a difference; New Zealand, France and the UK are some examples where footprints are often lower. Food wastage is not only the wastage of the end product, i.e. The climate benefits of eating locally are much smaller than people think. A general rule is to avoid foods that have a very short shelf-life and have traveled a long way (many labels have the country of ‘origin’ which helps with this). Here, by ‘largest impact’ I have taken the 90th percentile value. Food production is responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions; and food waste is responsible for 24% of that figure. Only 17% results from plant-based foods. Ten percent emit less than 9 kgCO2eq. This is different from poultry and pig farming: 61% of pork, 81% of chicken and 86% of eggs are produced intensively in industrial-farm settings.33 These systems are very similar wherever they are in the world. Enabling the business environment for the food processing industry. Whilst supply chain emissions may seem high, at 18%, it’s essential for reducing emissions by preventing food waste. Whether they are grown locally or shipped from the other side of the world matters very little for total emissions. Since most of our food is transported by sea, transport emissions only account for 6% of the carbon footprint of food, on average.39. To transport the 9000 kilometers from Central America to the UK therefore emits 0.207 kilograms CO2eq [9000km * 23g per tonne-kilometer / 1000 / 1000 = 0.207 kg CO2eq per kg]. This is because there are large differences in the intensity and practices used in ruminant livestock, and fish farming across the world. Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. How do different food products contribute to eutrophication? The current drought in India could be a harbinger of things to come. If it traveled the same distance by boat, the travel emissions would be only 0.26 kg CO2eq per kg [10,000km * 0.026 kilograms CO2eq per tonne-kilometer for transport by boat / 1000 = 0.26 kg CO2eq per kg]. Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). food production and consumption that have significant impacts on the environment and human health. Most – nearly 60% – comes by boat. Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. Part 1 Environmental impacts of food production and processing: Improving nutrient management in agriculture to reduce eutrophication, acidification and climate change; Increasing the efficiency of water use in crop production. The ‘Plastic ban’ The enforcement of the ‘plastic ban’ is rooted in an ideology that has lasted … Unlike what Malthus had to say, our food production has indeed managed to keep up with the growing population. They tend to be foods which are highly perishable. Regardless of whether you compare the footprint of foods in terms of their weight (e.g. Food manufacturing presents opportunities for pollution prevention. The goal of food packaging is to contain food in a cost-effective way that satisfies industry requirements and consumer desires, maintains food safety, and minimizes environmental impact. Today, we stand as a species of over 7 billion people even by conservative estimates. ’Food miles’ are measured in tonne-kilometers which represents the transport of one tonne of goods by a given transport mode (road, rail, air, sea, inland waterways, pipeline etc.) In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%. This makes them difficult to avoid. It’s a major issue in palm plantations and also in some Northern Hemisphere countries. But it comes with the caveat that comparisons are made based on global averages. But since there are large differences between producers, this chart also shows the full spectrum of emissions – from the lowest to highest producers. 2. Shipping one kilogram of avocados from Mexico to the United Kingdom would generate 0.21kg CO2eq in transport emissions.24 This is only around 8% of avocados’ total footprint.25 Even when shipped at great distances, its emissions are much less than locally-produced animal products. You might think this figure is strongly dependent on where in the world you live, and how far your beef will have to travel. Plant-based protein sources – tofu, beans, peas and nuts – have the lowest carbon footprint. The state of the world’s land and water resources for food and agriculture (SOLAW) – Managing systems at risk. Let’s compare the transport footprint of buying from your local farmer (who turns out to be your neighbor), versus someone in the UK buying beef from Central America (approximately 9000 kilometers away).Transporting food by boat emits 23 grams of CO2eq per tonne of product per kilometer. This also contributes to the pollution of the soil and to the deterioration of its quality. This creates just 30% of protein’s emissions. This is the case regardless of where you are in the world. As the population has grown, the area under cultivation has increased manifold. More than 50 percent of the waste occurs during “upstream,” or the production, yield handling and storage phase and the remaining happens during processing, distribution and consumption stages or the “downstream” phase. Unless you’ve cut it out completely, eating less meat and dairy products will have a much larger impact on your carbon footprint than eating locally. You might think that this figure of 6% is strongly dependent on where in the world you live – that if you live somewhere very remote, that the role of transport must be much higher. Globally, greenhouse gas emissions are massively skewed towards high-impact producers. Economic environment: The state of the economy can affect food product development. People across the world are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change: 8-in-10 people see climate change as a major threat to their country.14. (2018) compared greenhouse gas emissions from the average diet across countries in the European Union.36 In this study the researchers quantified the emissions from food production, land-use change and trade (i.e. over a distance of one kilometre. Crop production accounts for 27% of food emissions. How do we know which products to avoid? In other words, going ‘red meat and dairy-free’ (not totally meat-free) one day per week would achieve the same as having a diet with zero food miles. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited. December 2012 . Creating a Sustainable Food Future—A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2050. Transport is a small contributor to emissions. This is certainly true when you compare average emissions. One environmental benefit of meat production is the conversion of materials that might otherwise be wasted or turned into compost to produce food. 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