Meat and Dairy Substitutes Could Prevent Climate Change

GLOBAL - A report by Worldwatch has said that livestock and their byproducts account for 51 per cent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
calendar icon 2 November 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

The report suggests that livestock production has a much greater impact on climate change than has been previously suggested. A UN report published in 2006 estimated that livestock are attributable to 18 per cent of worldwide GHG emissions, Worldwatch suggest 51 per cent.

The report entitled 'Livestock and Climate Change', proposes eating substitutes for meat and dairy products, to reduce the impact of climate change.

"Action to replace livestock products not only can achieve quick reductions in atmospheric GHGs, but can also reverse the ongoing world food and water crises."

The authors of the report, a former environmental expert at the World Bank, Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang believe that recommending change directly to the industry will be more effective than recommending policy changes.

In particular, they recommend substitution of meat products with alternatives such as soy and seitan (wheat gluten), and dairy products with soy and rice products – not only for environmental benefits, but also so “a food company can produce and market alternatives to livestock products that taste similar, but are easier to cook, less expensive, and healthier, and so are better than livestock products”.

However, the approach often used to market meat-free products, such as recommending one meat-free day a week, “suggests deprivation” to consumers, they wrote. “Instead, the campaign should pitch the theme of eating all week long a line of food products that is tasty, easy to prepare, and includes a “superfood,” such as soy, that will enrich their lives.”

The global market for meat and dairy substitutes is potentially “almost as big” as the market for livestock products, the report found, and large organic food companies could be in the best position to take advantage of the market opportunity.

“They could significantly scale up production and sales of analogs within a few years at a reasonable capital cost and with an attractive return on investment,” it said. “The analogs clearly generate a small fraction of the GHGs attributable to livestock products. So additional revenues might be captured from the sale of carbon credits for the reduction in GHG emissions achieved by analogs versus livestock products.”

Reviewing direct and indirect sources of GHGs, the authors claim that several major sources linked to livestock production have been overlooked by previous studies, including the CO2 produced by animal respiration, the reduced photosynthesis that can occur when land is converted for grazing, and an underestimation of the global warming impact of methane.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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