Humans’ craving for meat could be harming the earth. Most of the stages in the meat supply chain lead to greenhouse gas emissions.
However, a new global research in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology assesses many approaches that could minimize these environmental impacts.
Between 1990 and 2016, there was nearly 16% increase in European Union meat production, while there was a 13% increase in consumption, reports the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This increase has posed problems to the environment, as meat production leads to more greenhouse gas emissions and needs more natural resources such as water, energy, and land when compared to grain-based food production. Gang Liu and his team used Germany as a test case and examined the whole meat supply chain to assess the effect of a range of environmental mitigation policies on greenhouse gas emissions.
They determined that the emissions would be greatly decreased by reducing meat consumption. Also, consuming more parts of the animal—from “nose to tail”—would have an important advantage. Furthermore, emissions could be limited by getting rid of meat waste in retailing as well as in restaurants and homes, and also by finding uses for slaughtering and processing byproducts.
Integrating all approaches that the scientists analyzed would result in a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the meat supply chain when compared to 2016 levels. They state their findings could update future policy-making associated with climate change mitigation of the animal production and meat processing sector.
The researchers acknowledge funding from REFRESH (Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain), under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union.