But is increasing rate of food production causing an impact on the environment? A new report, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, claims to do just that. And it produces 60% lower emissions because its footprint is shared with dairy co-products. How do we know which products to avoid? Beef from dairy herds tends to have a lower footprint since its footprint is essentially âsharedâ with dairy co-products. Strengthening capacities of support providers for food processing enterprises Enhancing Food processing micro enterprises to improve performance and competitiveness Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation and Knowledge sharing iv. While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg. This article focuses on the environmental impacts of food. food, but the wastage of the other natural resources that went into its production and the environmental impact that has been created as a result of producing it. Almost two-thirds of this (15% of food emissions) comes from losses in the supply chain which result from poor storage and handling techniques; lack of refrigeration; and spoilage in transport and processing. Half of all habitable land is used for agriculture.7. We license all charts under Creative Commons BY. Many argue that this overlooks the large variation in the footprints of foods across the world. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%.17. This is because only a small fraction comes from transport and packaging and most of our food emissions come from processes on the farm, or from land use change. Some fruit and vegetables tend to fall into this category. (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. Savannah burning (2% of food emissions) is largely burning of bush land in Africa to allow animal grazing. 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). 6 According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food and food packaging materials make up almost half of all municipal solid waste. More specifically, 0.023 kilograms of carbon dioxide-equivalents (CO2eq) per tonne-kilometer by sea, versus 1.13 kilograms CO2eq by air. Over the last few centuries, this has changed dramatically: wild habitats have been squeezed out by turning it into agricultural land. In the visualizations here we show the eutrophying emissions of foods, measured in grams of phosphate equivalents (gPO₄eq) per kilogram, 100 grams of protein, and per 1000 kilocalories. And there are a number of reasons we wouldn’t want it to: it is not only an important source of income for many, but can also be a key source of nutrition in local settings. Which foods used the most and least land in their production? To put this ‘high-impact production’ in context: the top quarter of protein production emits more than five billion tonnes of CO2eq each year. Gustavsson, G., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., Emanuelsson, A.Â (2013).Â The methodology of the FAO study: âGlobal food losses and food wasteâextent, causes and preventionâ – FAO, 2011. SandstrÃ¶m, V., Valin, H., Krisztin, T., HavlÃk, P., Herrero, M., & Kastner, T. (2018). But since there are large differences between producers, this chart also shows the full spectrum of emissions – from the lowest to highest producers. There are many examples of studies which show that importing often has a lower footprint. Of the 100 possible solutions, 8 of the top 20 solutions were concerned about the food production and consumption patterns. The impact of transport is small for most products, but there is one exception: those which travel by air. U. Sonesson, ... A. Hospido, in Environmental Assessment and Management in the Food Industry, 2010. Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018), in their large meta-analysis of global food systems, published in Science, estimated how much of our greenhouse gas emissions come from wasted food.43. The water pollution, in turn, contributes to the increased nitrogen and phosphorus deposits in the sea. Searchinger, T. et al. To put this in context: it’s around three times the global emissions from aviation.45 Or, if we were to put it in the context of national emissions, it would be the world’s third largest emitter.46 Only China (21%) and the United States (13%) emitted more.47. Food production accounts for around one-quarter – 26% – of global greenhouse gas emissions.41 This is a lot, but it’s slightly easier to digest when we remind ourselves that food is a basic human need. Today, we stand as a species of over 7 billion people even by conservative estimates. Emissions from food losses and waste were 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents (CO2eq) â 2.1 GtCO2eq from supply chain losses, and 1.2 GtCO2eq from consumer waste.The World Resource Instituteâs CAIT Climate Data Explorer reports that in 2010, the top three emitters were China (9.8 GtCO2eq; 21%); the USA (6.1 GtCO2eq; 13%) and India (2.5 GtCO2eq; 5.3%). Food losses and waste accounts for around 6% â around three times the share from aviation. The other 9% comes from food thrown away by retailers and consumers. 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. Food and life cycle energy inputs: consequences of diet and ways to increase efficiency. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. CO2e is then derived by multiplying the mass of emissions of a specific greenhouse gas by its equivalent GWP100 factor. This is certainly true for foods that are transported by plane. There has also been an increased dependence on non-renewable fuel-based machines such as water pumps, harvesters, threshers, tractors and so on. Ten percent emit less than 9 kgCO2eq. Marketing strategies of different organizations in this industry have been used for reference where applicable. This makes them difficult to avoid. Environmental issues play a big role in the food industry. This means they need to be eaten soon after they’ve been harvested. All are several times less than the lowest impact lamb (12 kgCO2eq) and beef (9 kgCO2eq). It has a higher carbon footprint that a kilogram of chicken or pork.It is the fact that it’s flown, rather than the travel distance itself that gives asparagus a large footprint in this example. The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). food, but the wastage of the other natural resources that went into its production and the environmental impact that has been created as a result of producing it. Ecological Economics, 44(2-3), 293-307. How does the scarcity-weighted water footprint of different food products compare? Both food fraud and lack of traceability are direct consequences of the production issue. People often think that eating ‘local’ – buying foods which are produced close to home – is one of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint. There is much more variation in the footprints of beef, lamb, dairy, and aquaculture production than for other foods. 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. FAO. They account for 83% of GHG emissions from the average EU diet. For most foods, this is not the case. But for those food items that travel by air, travel distance does have a large impact. But it’s also important to look at these comparisons in terms of nutritional units: this gives a measure of how low or high-impact different foods are in supplying protein or energy/calories, for example. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one â agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. When broken down by food items, dairy, meat and eggs dominate. Tracts of tropical evergreen forests are being cleared on a daily basis to expand the land available for cultivation. Supply chains account for 18% of food emissions.Food processing (converting produce from the farm into final products), transport, packaging and retail all require energy and resource inputs. (2010) found that by 2000, 55% of Earthâs ice-free (not simply habitable) land had been converted into cropland, pasture, and urban areas. We can look at these comparisons based on mass: the scarcity-weighted water required to produce one kilogram of food product. This is an extreme example because in reality there would still be small transport emissions involved in transporting food from producers in your area. Food wastage is not only the wastage of the end product, i.e. Animal products therefore accounted for [514 / (514 + 2370) * 100] = 18% of the worldâs calories. The number of species evaluated and threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List is available from their summary statistics found here. Food waste would therefore lie between the USA and India. Much of this skew, as we’ve already discussed, comes from the differences between plant-based sources and meats such as beef and lamb. Carlsson-Kanyama, A., EkstrÃ¶m, M. P., & Shanahan, H. (2003). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(25), 6506-6511. This is a valid criticism. Transport typically accounts for less than 1% of beef’s GHG emissions: choosing to eat local has very minimal effects on its total footprint. Hospido et al. ‘Land use’ here is the sum of land use change, savannah burning and organic soil cultivation (plowing and overturning of soils). If you buy from your local farmer â letâs assume you walk there, and have zero transport emissions â your beef footprint is 59.8 kilograms CO2eq per kilogram [we calculate this as 60kg – 0.2kg]. Excessive use of fertilisers has resulted in the pollution of water resources. Intensive pumping in the agriculturally prosperous regions in India has actually led to the depletion of the groundwater table. These charts are interactive so you can add and remove products using the ‘add food’ button. Many of the foods people assume to come by air are actually transported by boat – avocados and almonds are prime examples. Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). In the visualizations here we show the carbon footprint of foods as measured per 100 grams of protein, and per 1000 kilocalories. To express all greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq), they are each weighted by their global warming potential (GWP) value. Regardless of whether you compare the footprint of foods in terms of their weight (e.g. This works out at only 0.16% of the total; most foods are transported by boat. 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]. The climate benefits of eating locally are much smaller than people think. The global average per capita protein availability from vegetal products was 49 grams per person per day, and 32g from animal products. Durable packaging, refrigeration and food processing can all help to prevent food waste. Eutrophication – the pollution of water bodies and ecosystems with excess nutrients – is a major environmental problem. With solutions from both consumers and producers, we have an important opportunity to restore some of this farmland back to forests and natural habitats. The âPlastic banâ The enforcement of the âplastic banâ is rooted in an ideology that has lasted â¦ To make this accurate, the emissions of each country should be slightly lower than their reported values because we should remove the emissions from food waste for each. environment has been analyzed using the Indian fast food industry. Opening statement â¢ Everyday great amounts of food are produced, processed, transported by the food industry and consumed by us and these activities have direct impact on our health and the environment. We get this footprint value as: [9000km * 0.023kg per tonne-kilometer / 1000 = 0.207kg CO2eq per kg]. This means that only 10% of global production has a carbon footprint below this figure. Click the link below for active competitions! Food transport accounted for only 6% of emissions. CO2eq is then derived by multiplying the mass of emissions of a specific greenhouse gas by its equivalent GWP100 factor. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome and Earthscan, London. Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods. They tend to be foods which are highly perishable. This means that food wastage is responsible for around 6% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.44 In fact, it’s likely to be slightly higher since the analysis from Poore and Nemecek (2018) does not include food losses on the farm during production and harvesting. The role of trade in the greenhouse gas footprints of EU diets. This is certainly true when you compare average emissions. Geography also plays a role in the large variations we see for beef, lamb and aquaculture: farming approaches are often adopted in line with local conditions such as soil fertility, terrain and temperature.34 Opportunities for food producers to reduce emissions are therefore very specific to local conditions. The major uncertainties â and explanation for discrepancies â in these assessments is the allocation of ârangelandsâ: 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. Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. One factor which explains a lot of the variation for beef is whether it’s sourced from a dairy herd (where the cattle also produce milk) or a herd dedicated to beef production. Whether you buy it from the farmer next door or from far away, it is not the location that makes the carbon footprint of your dinner large, but the fact that it is beef. GWP100 values are used to combine greenhouse gases into a single metric of emissions called carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq). In 2019, 28,338 were listed as threatened with extinction. The hunger and malnutrition that persist today are outcomes of inequality and deprivation, and not the consequence of scarcity. Let’s take a look at the full range of footprints for protein-rich foods. Unlike what Malthus had to say, our food production has indeed managed to keep up with the growing population. 6% of land use change results from conversion from food for human consumption, and 12% for the production of animal feed. Suddenly the footprint of your asparagus changes from being a low-carbon food to a relatively high-carbon one, at almost 12 kg CO2eq per kg. This makes them hard to avoid. A great new food product idea may work well when consumers have a high income level and the economic outlook is prosperous, but the idea may fail in tougher economic times. But our diets are made up of a wide range of foods – do these findings hold true when we look at realistic diets? This data is from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).27 In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. This would also reduce the diversity of species on a global level as reduced forest cover would increase pressure on available land to support animal life. So, if you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet, avoid air-freighted foods where you can. The food industry giants both closed factories in Wuhan â the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) report 857, SIK. What Europeans ate has the biggest impact on their footprint. The 2018 Pew Research Center Survey polled people across the world on global threats: in many countries more than 8-in-10 people said that climate change was a major threat to their country. As consumers, the biggest difference we can make is to eat more plant-based sources of protein such as tofu, nuts, peas, and beans. This is equivalent to 0.35% of the total footprint of the 60 kilograms of CO2eq per kilogram of beef. Climate change and water scarcity will have a big impact on the food and beverage industry in Asia, due mainly to the changes in growing conditions for key agricultural inputs.That's the primary finding of WRI's forthcoming report: Weeding Risk, due out in October. Land use accounts for 24% of food emissions.Twice as many emissions result from land use for livestock (16%) as for crops for human consumption (8%).12Agricultural expansion results in the conversion of forests, grasslands and other carbon ‘sinks’ into cropland or pasture resulting in carbon dioxide emissions. These factors include: soil biodiversity in agricultural food production, water use and water pollution, energy use, climate change, chemicals usage, desertification, and food safety and biotechnology 2. In this case, transport by boat is too slow, leaving air travel as the only feasible option. This gives us a comparison of food miles in tonne-kilometers. First published in January 2020. The state of the worldâs land and water resources for food and agriculture (SOLAW) â Managing systems at risk. We should avoid air-freighted goods where we can. The mean emissions from beef very much depend on whether itâs sourced from dairy herds or from dedicated beef herds. 10% of the world is covered by glaciers, and a further 19% is barren land – deserts, dry salt flats, beaches, sand dunes, and exposed rocks.6 This leaves what we call ‘habitable land’. To give an informative comparison, we use a metric called ‘food miles’; this is calculated as the distance each transport method covers multiplied by the quantity of food transported (by mass). Around one-quarter of the calories the world produces are thrown away; they’re spoiled or spilled in supply chains; or are wasted by retailers, restaurants and consumers.42 To produce this food we need land, water, energy, and fertilizer inputs. Temperature-controlled transport by sea generates 23g CO2eq per tonne kilometer, whereas temperature controlled air transport generates 1130g CO2eq per tonne kilometer. Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions. But it comes with the caveat that comparisons are made based on global averages. This is similar to, or only slightly higher than, the world’s best beef and lamb. You might think this figure is strongly dependent on where in the world you live, and how far your beef will have to travel, but in the ‘dropdown box’ below I work through an example to show why it doesn’t make a lot of difference. This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. The European Environment Agency reports that the EUâs total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were approximately 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. The sum of all gases in their CO2eq form provide a measure of total greenhouse gas emissions. Letâs compare the transport footprint of buying from your local farmer (who lives just down the road from you), versus someone in the UK transporting beef from Central America (approximately 9000 kilometers away). As the world grapples with the estimated US$940 billion per year in economic losses globally as a result of food loss and waste, these data illustrate the embedded carbon impacts when food â¦ You can explore emissions by sector from the World Resources Institute here. 21% of food’s emissions comes from crop production for direct human consumption, and 6% comes from the production of animal feed. We see from the height of the curve that most beef production lies in the range between 17 to 27 kgCO2eq. ’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.) What’s harder to make sense of is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions which are caused in the production of food that is never eaten. GWP100 values are used to combine greenhouse gases into a single metric of emissions called carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Most of the variation between countries comes from how much meat and dairy products they eat. This can be seen at the bottom of our visualization. However, people have been mindlessly wasting food on one side while there are many suffering in the other end. Livestock – animals raised for meat, dairy, eggs and seafood production – contribute to emissions in several ways. Food processing is typically the second largest source of environmental impact from food and beverage products and is generally the area the food industry has focused its sustainability efforts on to date. Meat processing environmental, health and safety guidelines. This creates just 30% of protein’s emissions. In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews (2008) investigated the relative climate impact of food miles and food choices in households in the US.18 Their analysis showed that substituting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from beef and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a plant-based alternative reduces GHG emissions more than buying all your food from local sources. These charts are interactive so you can add and remove products using the ‘add food’ button. Transporting food by boat emits 0.023 kilograms of CO2eq per tonne of product per kilometer. Protein-rich foods account for the bulk of our dietary emissions. There are four key elements to consider when trying to quantify food GHG emissions. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. We actually have plenty. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provide global statistics on crop and food production, supply chains, and food available for human consumption. These chemicals are often difficult for the soil to breakdown. How do the distributions between plant-based and meat-based sources compare? This means they need to be eaten soon after they’ve been harvested. All of our charts can be embedded in any site.