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Large-scale study suggests that meat and dairy avoid the best option for the environment

Meat and dairy products to avoid is according to a new survey by far the best way to keep your impact on the climate, but also on land use and biodiversity.

Meat and dairy provide, a paltry 18 percent of the calories and 37 percent of the proteins, but use of more than 83 percent of the arable land and produce 60 percent of the emissions of greenhouse gases. © istock

A new, large-scale study in Science, reported by Thomas Nemecek and Joseph Poore, indicates that vegetable food is best for the environment.

It was the researchers not to make statements about consumer behavior. However, they wanted to detail all the environmental parameters studies of the main power supply, from farm to fork. This analysed they have a huge amount of data on more than 40,000 farms in 119 countries around the world.

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The researchers analysed data on more than 40,000 farms in 119 countries around the world.

They focused on the forty products, which together account for 90 percent of the human diet, and analysed the full impact of the entire supply chain on the climate, water use and air and water pollution.

Meat and dairy vs. plant-based diet

The analysis shows clearly that meat and dairy products have a far greater impact than plant-based diet. The difference is in efficiency: meat and dairy supply, a paltry 18 percent of the calories and 37 percent of the proteins by humans to be consumed, but use of more than 83 percent of the arable land and produce 60 percent of the emissions of greenhouse gases.

The difference is even so big, that the global agricultural area with at least three-fourths could be reduced if the production of meat and dairy products are stopped it would be. That is an area comparable with the United States, China, the EU and Australia together.

Large differences between products

A striking conclusion from the research is that the environmental impact of a product can massively differ depending on the manufacturer and the way in which it was produced. The production of 100 grams of protein from meat with high impact punch, for example, 105 kilograms of CO2 and 370 square metres of land. That is a whopping 12 and 50 times more than the most environmentally friendly produced meat.

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Two products that are there in the store look the same can have a very different impact on the planet

‘The two products in the store look the same can have a very different impact on the planet,” says lead author Joseph Poore from the School of Geography and Environment at the University of Oxford. “We realize that not currently as we make choices about what we eat.’

But also big differences within the product category can bridge the gap between animal and vegetable food is not to bridge: the most environmentally friendly produced meat continues to 6 times more damaging to the climate than, for example, peas and uses 36 times more land area.

Good news

But that large internal differences offer great potential for change, the researchers say. So in all product categories, on average, a quarter of the producers responsible for more than half of the environmental impact.

“The production of food creates an immense pressure on the environment, and that is not necessarily a consequence of our needs,” says Poore. ‘The pressure can be reduced significantly by to change the way of how we produce food, and especially what we consume.’

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The most environmentally friendly produced litre of milk still has a twice as large print, as a liter of soymilk.

As regards the agricultural production, break down the scientists made the case for technological solutions to reduce the impact to reduce. But they also have their limits: the most environmentally friendly produced litre of milk is still twice as large print, as a liter of soymilk.

Diet

Changes in the diet therefore have a much larger potential, say the researchers. Depending on where you live, a predominantly plant-based diet emissions of food, to 73 per cent.

A more vegan diet is the best procedure to give your impact on the planet earth to reduce, they argue. By less meat and dairy consumption will not only reduce your emissions of greenhouse gases, but also ocean acidification, eutrophication, and land and water use.

“We need to find ways to improve the situation slightly, so that it is better for producers and consumers to choose for the environment,” says Poore. ‘Environmental labeling and financial incentives would be a more sustainable consumption in the dams.’

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