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Substituting beans for beef as a contribution toward US climate change targets


Abstract and Figures

Shifting dietary patterns for environmental benefits has long been advocated. In relation to mitigating climate change, the debate has been more recent, with a growing interest from policy makers, academics, and society. Many researchers have highlighted the need for changes to food consumption in order to achieve the required greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. So far, food consumption has not been anchored in climate change policy to the same extent as energy production and usage, nor has it been considered within the context of achieving GHG targets to a level where tangible outputs are available. Here, we address those issues by performing a relatively simple analysis that considers the extent to which one food exchange could contribute to achieving GHG reduction targets in the United States (US). We use the targeted reduction for 2020 as a reference and apply published Life Cycle Assessment data on GHG emissions to beans and beef consumed in the US. We calculate the difference in GHGs resulting from the replacement of beef with beans in terms of both calories and protein. Our results demonstrate that substituting one food for another, beans for beef, could achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the US. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of US cropland (692,918 km 2). While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the Bbeans for beef^ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts. Climatic Change
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Substituting beans for beef as a contribution toward US
climate change targets
Helen Harwatt
&Joan Sabaté
&Gidon Eshel
Sam Soret
&William Ripple
Received: 16 February 2016 /Accepted: 10 April 2017
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017
Abstract Shifting dietary patterns for environmental benefits has long been advocated.
In relation to mitigating climate change, the debate has been more recent, with a growing
interest from policy makers, academics, and society. Many researchers have highlighted
the need for changes to food consumption in order to achieve the required greenhouse
gas (GHG) reductions. So far, food consumption has not been anchored in climate
change policy to the same extent as energy production and usage, nor has it been
considered within the context of achieving GHG targets to a level where tangible outputs
are available. Here, we address those issues by performing a relatively simple analysis
that considers the extent to which one food exchange could contribute to achieving GHG
reduction targets in the United States (US). We use the targeted reduction for 2020 as a
reference and apply published Life Cycle Assessment data on GHG emissions to beans
and beef consumed in the US. We calculate the difference in GHGs resulting from the
replacement of beef with beans in terms of both calories and protein. Our results
demonstrate that substituting one food for another, beans for beef, could achieve ap-
proximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the US.
In turn, this shift would free up 42% of US cropland (692,918 km
). While not currently
recognized as a climate policy option, the Bbeans for beef^scenario offers significant
climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high poten-
tial of animal to plant food shifts.
Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-017-1969-1
*Helen Harwatt
Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, USA
Physics Department, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA
Present address: Radcliffe Inst. for Advanced Study, Harvard, USA
Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
1 Introduction
Climate change is one of the defining public issues of our time, threatening crop yield in
some regions, reducing access to water, increasing human toll due to weather extremes, and
increasing the spread of infectious disease among a myriad of other, mostly adverse, effects
(Stern 2007;Blancoetal.2014). The Copenhagen Accord and Paris Agreement acknowl-
edge that limiting global mean temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels requires
deep cuts in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UNEP 2011; UNFCCC 2015).
Additionally, the Paris Agreement states that efforts to limit warming to no more than
1.5 °C are needed to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change
(UNFCCC 2015), requiring deeper cuts in global GHGs. Currently, climate change policy
largely focuses on reducing carbon dioxide (CO
) emissions, the dominant anthropogenic
GHG (Solomon et al. 2007). Yet realizing 2 °C warming also requires major reductions in
GHG emissions (primarily methane (CH
) and nitrous oxide (N
O)) (Stehfest et al.
2009;Poppetal.2010; Bajzelj et al. 2014;Blancoetal.2014), especially in the near term
(Ripple et al. 2014; Pierrehumbert and Eshel 2015). Globally, livestock farming accounts for
~15% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions (Gerber et al. 2013) and is the primary
anthropogenic source of CH
and N
O emissions, producing around 50 and 60%, respec-
tively (Smith et al. 2007). This is particularly significant given that on a mass basis, CH
O have 25 and 298 times the centennial-mean global warming potential of CO
et al. 2013)
In addition, CH
has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than CO
(912 years),
enhancing its near-term prominence (Myhre et al. 2013) and highlighting the importance of
early focus on livestock.
Livestock accounts for up to half of the technical GHG mitigation potential of the
agriculture, forestry, and land-use sectors (Herrero et al. 2016). Yet even the most
technologically possible GHG reductions (32%) are outpaced by increasing demand for
meat (Gerber et al. 2013). In addition, due to adoption constraints, costs and numerous
trade-offs only 10% of the livestock-related technical GHG mitigation potential is viable
(Herrero et al. 2016). Without significant dietary shifts, food-related GHG emissions in
2050 would constitute half of the total emissions budget imposed by the 2 °C target
(Springmann et al. 2016). Hedenus et al. (2014) have shown that food-related emissions
could exceed the full emissions budget by as early as 2070. Hence, a dietary shift away
from livestock products is most likely required in addition to technological reduction of
agricultural GHG emissions (Hertwich et al. 2010;Poppetal.2010; Bajzelj et al. 2014;
Hedenus et al. 2014).
Modifying diets for environmental benefits has long been advocated (Gussow and Clancy
1986) and has been enjoying considerable attention recently (Stehfest et al. 2009; Scarborough
et al. 2014; Green et al. 2015; Machovina et al. 2015;Lambetal.2016;Springmannetal.
2016). Despite this growing interest, so far, dietary choices have not been as central in climate
change discourse as energy production and usage (Stehfest et al. 2009;Baileyetal.2014;
Bajzelj et al. 2014). The analysis presented here seeks to specifically assess the potential
contribution of simple dietary changes toward achieving the US GHG emissions target for
2020, which we use as a reference. To keep the analysis tractable, we consider replacing one
item, beef, the highest GHG emitting food item (Nijdam et al. 2012; Eshel et al. 2014), with
beans, a lower GHG intensity food (Nijdam et al. 2012). This work is novel in that no other
analysis has placed potential diet changes in the context of meeting country-wide GHG
reduction targets.
Climatic Change
2 Methods
The US Presidents Climate Change Plan sets out to reduce net US GHG emissions by 17%
below 2005 levels (6438 million metric tons, mmt, of CO
equivalent, denoted CO
e) by the
year 2020 (EOP 2013). This target requires net 2020 GHG levels to remain below 5344 mmt
e, a 7% reduction from current net emissions of 5791 mmt CO
recent data available, we refer to 2013 levels as Bcurrent emissions^).
This analysis is based on replacing beef consumption with beans. Beef is the most GHG-
intensive food item, with emissions ranging from 9 to 129 kg CO
e/kg, whereas compara-
tively legumes result in 12kgCO
e/kg (Nijdam et al. 2012). In addition, legumes are a
high protein food currently consumed at levels well below the US governmentsdietary
recommendations (USDA 2012c; Moore and Thompson 2015). Legumes are therefore a
natural option for substantially reducing GHG emissions while improving nutrition. We
calculate the net emission change by taking the averted beef emissions and subtracting the
emissions associated with producing the legume replacement. We use emission factors from
US Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) of 40.2 kg CO
e/kg beef and 0.8 kg CO
e/kg beans
(Nijdam et al. 2012). The beef LCA reflects typical US beef production, Midwestern feedlot
finishing of range-weaned calves (Pelletier et al. 2010). Live to retail weight loss is
accounted for, using a factor of 2.7 (Nijdam et al. 2012). As a sensitivity analysis, we also
use a global average from Nijdam et al. (2012), of 25.5 kg CO
e/kg beef and 1.1 kg CO
beans, derived from a review of 52 LCA studies of meat and its alternatives (Nijdam et al.
2012). Because beef emission estimates vary widely, we use their geometric mean. The 52
LCAs included CO
e emissions from the cultivation/farming process and transportation to
retail. Additionally, the beef LCAs include direct and indirect N
O emissions from feed
production, CH
from enteric fermentation, N
from manure management, and
carbon (C) emissions due to the slaughter process. GHGs from the production of farm
machinery, changes in soil C emissions, and emissions related to land use change are not
considered here. For both beans and beef, the bulk (>90%) of emissions occur during
production (Nijdam et al. 2012). We consider the mass necessary to fully replace both kcals
and protein delivered by beef with beans, using nutritional information for both beef (USDA
2015a) and beans (USDA 2015b), and report each separately. Beef provides 332 kcals and
14.4 g protein per 100 g of raw weight (USDA 2015a), and raw beanscorresponding values
per 100 g are 341 kcals and 21.6 g protein (USDA 2015b) (we use raw weights because the
emissions data apply to the retail level). The corresponding moisture content of the raw
weights of beef and beans is 54 and 11%, respectively. The caloric equivalence ratio of
substituting beans for beef is 0.97 (332 beef kcals divided by 341 bean kcals), and the
protein mass ratio is 0.66 (14.4 g beef protein divided by 21.6 g bean protein). Consequently,
we derive energy (kcal) and protein equivalence emissions factors using:
&US emissions, energy equivalence: 40.2 kg CO
e/kg(0.8 kg CO
×0.97) = 39.4 kg CO
&US emissions, protein equivalence: 40.2 kg CO
e/kg(0.8 kg CO
×0.66) = 39.7 kg CO
&Global emissions, energy equivalence: 25.5 kg CO
e/kg(1.1 kg CO
×0.97) = 24.4 kg CO
&Global emissions, protein equivalence: 25.5 kg CO
e/kg(1.1 kg CO
×0.66) = 24.8 kg CO
Climatic Change
We next use US beef consumption data (USDA 2012b), converting carcass to retail weights
following Nijdam et al. (2012). Finally, we obtain emission savings due to substituting beans
for beef in the energy and protein equivalence by applying the above factors to US annual beef
consumption, 8.4 mmt. We report results using both US specific and global GHG emission
factors for beef and beans. As the US is a net exporter of beans (USDA 2012c)andbeef
(USDA 2012a), we assume that the consumption amounts in this analysis are relevant to the
US GHG inventory and hence our Bbeans for beef^scenario is appropriate for considering as
part of US GHG reduction efforts. We treat the envisioned dietary change in isolation,
quantifying its effect as the only emission reduction measure implemented toward the 2020
target. We do not consider land use changes associated with converting pasture and cropland
from beef into beans.
3 Results and discussion
Substituting beans for beef in the US diet would reduce CO
e emissions by 334 mmt,
accomplishing 75% of the 2020 reduction target. Using global emissions factors, the figures
reduce to 209 mmt CO
e and 47%, respectively (Table 1), due to large differences between US
and global emissions factors (Fig. 1). The results are almost identical when conserving either
protein mass or energy (Table 1).
Our findings demonstrate that substituting plant sourced foods for animal sourced foods can
play an important role in climate change mitigation. While substituting beans for beef does not
entirely satisfy the US GHG reduction targets, it could be combined with mitigation efforts for
other major emitters such as power generation or transportation. While our estimate represents
the upper bound, given the sizable contribution to the GHG reduction target, a lower level of
uptake, i.e., less than 100%, would still provide an important contribution.
The example analyzed is particularly impactful for mitigating near-term global temperature
rise (Rockstrom et al. 2009; Ripple et al. 2014). Radiative forcing in the short-term, i.e., over
the next several decades, will be dominated by CH
due to its relatively short atmospheric
lifetime (~9 years) in comparison to CO
(~100 years) and its much higher global warming
potential (Myhre et al. 2013). Because we replace beef, a high CH
source, with beans, a
relatively much lower CH
source, the expected resultant decline in radiative forcing and
decline in decadal scale warming will be greater than that expected from current policies,
Tab l e 1 Actual CO
e reduction and percent of the US 2020 CO
e target achieved by substituting beans for beef
in the calorie and protein mass equivalence
Scenario Beans for beef: energy equivalent Beans for beef: protein mass equivalent
% contribution to 2020
US climate change
e reduction
(million metric
% contribution to 2020
US climate change
(million metric
US specific LCA
74 332 75 334
Global LCA
46 206 47 209
Climatic Change
which focus almost exclusively on reducing CO
emissions (Pierrehumbert and Eshel 2015).
However, to meet long-term GHG reduction targets, significant reductions of both CO
emissions are required (Blanco et al. 2014).
Although the goal of our analysis is to assess the potential of conceptually simple food
substitutions to contribute to climate change goals, the resultant shiftsrequiring societal level
behavior change (Popp et al. 2010; Green et al. 2015)are non-trivial and unprecedented at the
national level. Policy innovation and experimentation, and economic incentives (Ripple et al.
2014) will likely be required to propel such shifts (Bajzelj et al. 2014). While a national substitution
of beans for beef would be socially demanding, a strong willingness to make dietary changes for
environmental improvements, including eliminating red meat, has been demonstrated (Bailey et al.
2014). For example, in 2014, Ipsos MORI (Market & Opinion Research International) conducted
an online survey of at least 1000 individual consumers from each of the following countries:
Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Africa, the UK, and the
US (Bailey et al. 2014). Among those aware of the climate impact of meat, 44% were likely to
reduce their meat consumption and 15% had already reduced their meat consumption. A public
survey conducted by the UK government revealed that from over 3000 participants, 85% stated
that they will or maybe will change their diets for environmental improvements, and 53% were
willing to give up red meat (DEFRA 2011). Furthermore, consumer acceptance could possibly be
increased by plant-based beef analogs (Hoek et al. 2011;Baileyetal.2014) that have become more
palatable, available and accepted, now being regularly availed by a third of US consumers (Mintel
2015). Because these meat analogs have very similar GHG emissions to the beans used in our
analysis (Nijdam et al. 2012), if beef is replaced by meat analogs, we expect similar GHG
reductions to those presented for replacing beef with beans. To further ease the implementation
of such a policy, increasing awareness of the impacts food choices have on climate change and also
on the urgency and importance of reducing the impacts of climate change are likely to be crucial
(Stern 2007;Rippleetal.2014;Baileyetal.2014). Recent findings have demonstrated that people
who are the most aware of the related climate impacts have a greater likeliness of having already
reduced their meat consumption and a greater likeliness of reducing meat consumption in the
future (Bailey et al. 2014). Highlighting the human health benefits related to such a policy could
increase consumer interest (Stehfest et al. 2009; Bailey et al. 2014), particularly as health benefits
have been a strong motivator for consumers purchasing meat analog products (Sadler 2004).
needed from
from 'beans for
beef' (energy)
from 'beans for
beef' (protein)
from 'beans for
beef' (energy)
from 'beans for
beef' (protein)
US emissions factors Global emissions factors
CO2e million metric tons
Fig. 1 Greenhouse gas reductions. CO
e reductions needed to achieve US climate change targets set for 2020
(solid box), in comparison to the CO
e reductions achieved from substituting beans for beef, by energy
equivalence and protein weight equivalence using US emission factors (diagonally hatched boxes) and global
emission factors (horizontally hatched boxes)
Climatic Change
To provide further context to the analysis, replacing daily calories from beef could be
achieved with 188 g (0.8 of a cup) of cooked black beans, which 87% of Americans currently
consume below recommended levels (Moore and Thompson 2015). This shift will also reduce
chronic disease burdens including heart disease, diabetes, and some meat-related cancers
(Bouvard et al. 2015;Orlichetal.2013) and increase dietary fiber intake, currently also below
recommended or protective levels (Anderson et al. 2009;Orlichetal.2013).
The GHG targets assessed here are less demanding in comparison to those recommended to
stabilize global temperature increase below 2 °C (Gupta et al. 2007;UNEP2011;UNFCCC
2015). We analyze beef-to-beans in this analysis purely as an illustration of the substantial
emission reduction potential of a conceptually simple dietary shift. Future assessments could
compare more stringent GHG reductions or sweeping dietary shifts.
The actual emission reduction needed to meet the 2020 target depends on the considered
baseline emissions. For example, if we instead use the 2020 forecast (6206 mmt CO
e) (USDS
2010), as the baseline, and estimate beef consumption for 2020 by applying current per capita
consumption (8,428,000 metric tons for 308,745,538 people) to the projected 2020 US
population (334,503,000 people) (USCB 2014), we get 9.1 mmt of beef
(27.3 kg cap
×334,503,000 people). Inputting these figures into the methodology of section
2 changes our estimated contribution to meeting the 2020 target from 4674 to 2642%.
Given the focus on GHG reduction targets, the current analysis included GHG emissions as
the sole environmental metric. A more comprehensive assessment would include the likely
very significant impacts of substituting beans for beef on other resource use. For example,
using the mean for US specific land-use factors from a published meta-analysis for beef
(86.5 m
/kg) and beans (4.4 m
/kg) (Nijdam et al. 2012), substituting beans for beef in the US
on a calorie equivalent basis will spare 692,918 km
of land, as an upper bound estimate. This
land area is equivalent to 42% of cropland in the contiguous US, which is 1,650,745 km
(USDA 2011), and roughly 1.6 times the surface area of California. This type of land sparingis
particularly relevant to climate change goals given the potential for enhancing carbon seques-
tration, which will likely augment GHG reductions (Lamb et al. 2016). By removing cattle
from rangelands and pastures, the beef-to-beans shift would also benefit woody plant recruit-
ment and biodiversity (Mishra et al. 2003; Pelletier and Tyedmers 2010;Phalanetal.2011;
Batchelor et al. 2015;Lambetal.2016), and substantially reduce water needs (Marlow et al.
2015), an increasingly important conservation issue under climate change (IPCC 2007;
Cisneros et al. 2014). Beyond calories and protein, and the general health co-benefits men-
tioned above, our analysis did not rigorously account for any health and/or nutritional factors
related to substituting Bbeans for beef.^Future assessments could usefully include such health
factors in an integrated assessment with environmental factors (Stehfest et al. 2009; Sabate
et al. 2014; Green et al. 2015; Springmann et al. 2016).
While some have argued that there are climate and environmental benefits associ-
ated with livestock production in certain locales and practices (de Oliveira Silva et al.
2016;Teagueetal.2016), others have forcefully demonstrated the factual inconsis-
tencies in these arguments (Beschta et al. 2013;Briskeetal.2013; Carter et al. 2014;
Phalan et al. 2016).
One of the key strategies for effective climate change mitigation is informing, educating,
and persuading individuals about what they can do (Stern 2007). Dietary shift is ideal in this
respect as it ascribes a pivotal role to personal choice in achieving GHG reduction targets.
Further strategies will likely prove necessary to assist consumer choice regarding dietary shifts,
including gaining support from the food service industry and retail markets.
Climatic Change
4 Conclusions
Key traits position livestock production as a prime target for climate policy. The significant
contribution to global GHGs, the dominance of short-lived methane, and thus the relatively
immediate impact compel dietary shifts away from livestock products as important tools for
mitigating anthropogenic climate change and particularly for avoiding near-term global tem-
perature rise. We further demonstrate this through our analysis, showing the significant GHG
reductions deliverable through simple food substitutions such as Bbeans for beef,^meeting up
to 74% of the reductions needed to reach the 2020 GHG target for the US. Additional benefits
include the sparing of 692,918 km
, equivalent to 42% of US cropland.
Acknowledgements We dedicate this article to the memory of our valued colleague and co-author, Dr. Sam
Soret, 1962 - 2016.
Author Contributions HH conceptualized the research, conducted the analysis and wrote the article; JS
obtained part of the research funding; GE assisted with the analysis and writing; SS obtained part of the research
funding; WR assisted with the analysis and writing. All authors contributed to editing the article.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Climatic Change
... Consumers' appetite towards plant proteins is increasing for a multitude of motives including consciousness towards health, environment, and animal welfare. Environmentally, plant-based proteins are considered more sustainable than those animals due to their lower carbon footprint and land use (Harwatt, Sabat e, Eshel, Soret, & Ripple, 2017;. Furthermore, plant proteins can be recovered as co-or by-products and then get back into the food chain as functional ingredients, thereby improving the sustainability of the process and contributing to circular economy (Boukid, 2021b;Br€ uckner-G€ uhmann, Benthin, & Drusch, 2019;Garrido et al., 2014). ...
Plant proteins are spreading due to growing environmental, health and ethical concerns related to animal proteins. Proteins deriving from cereals, oilseeds, and pulses are witnessing a sharp growth showing a wide spectrum of applications from meat and fish analogues to infant formulations. Bakery products are one of the biggest markets of alternative protein applications for functional and nutritional motives. Fortifying bakery products with proteins can secure a better amino-acids profile and a higher protein intake. Conventional plant proteins (i.e., wheat and soy) dominate the bakery industry, but emerging sources (i.e., pea, chickpea, and faba) are also gaining traction. Each protein brings specific functional properties and nutritional value. Therefore, this chapter gives an overview of the main features of plant proteins and discusses their impact on the quality of bakery products.
... In developed countries, pulses could partially (or totally) replace animal proteins, providing environmental and health gains [32]. Harwatt et al. [33] predicted that if the American population substituted beef for beans in a hypothetical situation, considering equivalent calories and proteins, the US could reach up to 74% of the 2020 GHG reduction target. ...
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Pulses play a central role in food system sustainability and can be the starting point toward sustainable diets. For a sustainable future, the promotion of pulses’ consumption should begin early on, during infancy. This work’s objective is to review and compile food policies that can support pulses promotion in children’s diets and provide an overview of the role of pulses in sustainable diets. A search was performed in Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sites and Medline database of technical reports and papers from the last 10 years (2011-2021) using the following terms: “Legume”, “pulse”, “sustainability”, “environment”, “food system”, “nutrition”, “children”, and “policies”. Subsequently, actions that could support children’s pulse consumption were selected and organized into the UNICEF´s Innocenti Framework on Food Systems for Children and Adolescents. Finally, the identified actions were discussed according to the Framework’s determinants (food supply chains, external food environments, personal food environment, and behaviors of caregivers and children). Considering the impact and feasibility of the compiled actions, reformulation of infant products with pulses and activities in school food environments seem to be priority measures because they are relatively simple to operate and have a high impact potential.
... 17,18 Extensive environmental research and life cycle assessments have demonstrated the environmental benefits of dietary transitions, with legume-based products being more climate friendly and resource efficient compared to animal-based equivalents (e.g., they generate less greenhouse gas emissions, and require less N fertilizer, land and water resources). 19,20 However, the intense focus on the environmental impacts has been to the detriment of socio-economic considerations of dietary transitions (impacts on farm income, wages and salaries, employment, consumers' affordability, etc.). 21 Although some studies have addressed consumers' perceptions and intentions towards the substitution of animal-based products using legumes and protein-rich crops, 18,22,23 little or no attention has been paid to the direct social and economic impact of such replacements. ...
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Background Extensive research shows that replacing animal protein with plant-based protein in the diets would strongly alleviate the environmental impact of the food system. However, much less attention has been given to the socio-economic considerations of dietary transitions. This study analyses the socio-economic performance of innovative legume-based food prototypes, developed in the Protein2Food research project, and conventional animal-based products (chicken meat and dairy milk). We implement a social life cycle assessment (sLCA) to quantify and compare their potential socio-economic impacts along the entire life cycle. Results Findings from this analysis show that legume-based prototypes and their respective animal-based counterparts have, in the overall, a comparable socio-economic performance. Looking at the disaggregated life-cycle stages, socio-economic hotspots (points of most negative impacts) were mainly identified at the production stage in legume-based products. Farm-level net margin and profitability are low when compared with their animal equivalents. However, at the processing stage, there are socio-economic gains for plant-based products regarding lower unemployment rates. Finally, at the consumption stage, there are mixed results. Plant-based products show worse protein affordability, but better nutritional contents (lower saturated fat and cholesterol) than their animal counterparts. Conclusions To improve socio-economic performance of legume-based foods greater emphasis should be placed upon developing improved processing technologies and supply chains. This would broaden the supply of sustainable protein-rich food options and would make these products more economically attractive. The research illustrates that policies should be targeted to the different stages of the food value chain to optimize the development of innovative plant-based foods. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Eco-anxiety and eco-anger, moral considerations for current and future humans (and biodiversity loss), and other perceived risks of climate change can confer costs on non-mitigators through psychological channels resolvable by adopting mitigative behaviour [34]. In addition, adopting mitigative behaviour may provide private co-benefits: vegetarian diets may have health benefits [35] and have a smaller environmental impact [36]; changing local air quality standards, or residential heating appliances, can have respiratory health benefits and environmental impacts. The ratio d/f max represents the relative importance of dissatisfaction versus the influence of climate change. ...
Climate dynamics are inextricably linked to processes in social systems that are highly unequal. This suggests a need for coupled social-climate models that capture pervasive real-world asymmetries in the population distribution of the consequences of anthropogenic climate change and climate (in)action. Here, we use evolutionary game theory to develop a social-climate model with group structure to investigate how anthropogenic climate change and population heterogeneity coevolve. We find that greater homophily and resource inequality cause an increase in the global peak temperature anomaly by as much as 0.7°C. Also, climate change can structure human populations by driving opinion polarization. Finally, climate mitigation achieved by reducing the cost of mitigation measures paid by individuals tends to be contingent upon socio-economic conditions, whereas policies that achieve communication between different strata of society show climate mitigation benefits across a broad socio-economic regime. We conclude that advancing climate change mitigation efforts can benefit from a social-climate systems perspective.
Human consumption of livestock remains a marginal issue in climate change debates, partly due to the IPCC's arbitrary adoption of 100-year global warming potential framework to compare different emissions, blinding us to the significance of shorter-term emissions, namely methane. Together with the gas it reacts to form - tropospheric ozone - methane has been responsible for 37% of global warming since 1750, yet its atmospheric life is just 10 years. Neglecting its role means overlooking powerful mitigation opportunities. The chapter discusses the role of livestock, the largest anthropogenic methane source, and the need to include reduced meat consumption in climate change responses. Looking beyond the conventional focus on the consumer, we point to some underlying challenges in addressing the meat-climate relationship, including the climate science community's reluctance to adopt a short-term focus in its climate projections. Policy options are presented.
Purpose The consumption of animal-based food products faces several sustainability challenges. To date, however, meat intake plays an important role in everyday food choices. With their ability to change the opinions of a critical mass, opinion leaders in food choices are assumed to play a predominant role in influencing future dietary styles. Thus, the objective of this study was to identify opinion leaders in food choices and their personal meat consumption behaviour as well as their attitude towards policy interventions aiming to meat reduction. Design/methodology/approach The sample consisted of 1,479 German participants aged between 15 and 29 years who were online surveyed in autumn 2020. A latent profile analysis (LPA) identified three distinct groups of opinion leader in the younger generation labelled “non-opinion leaders”, “weak opinion leaders” and “opinion leaders”. The identified profiles were used to understand opinion leaders and their food choices by using chi-square tests as well as univariate ANOVA with Tukey or Games-Howell post hoc tests. Findings Opinion leadership in food choices was associated with a higher interest in meat-reduced dietary styles and with more positive attitudes towards innovative food ideas. Moreover, opinion leaders were associated with politicised food decisions, indicating that their food choices align with their political and social interests. Originality/value The results contribute to a better understanding of the development of future dietary styles, provide evidence for a shift towards more sustainable dietary patterns in the near future and highlight that food decisions are no longer solely decisions on an individual basis but rather becoming of political relevance.
Technical Report
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This Guidance Memo provides a comparative analysis of the production and consumption of animal flesh in six important and illustrative countries, as a basis for assessing the potential of rising plant-meat production and consumption. A core argument is that a rapid and radical transition away from animal flesh-centered diets is an urgent environmental priority, starting in the world's wealthiest countries where per capita consumption is highest, followed by middle income countries where per capita consumption is rising fastest. Another related argument is that plant-meats could have a crucial role speeding this dietary transition, although they do not comprise a proverbial silver bullet. The ultimate aim of this memo is to help environmental and animal advocates appreciate the context and dynamism of plant-meat development, which in turn leads to insights about messaging and how to support growth and direct substitution in diets-what we refer to as re-meatification-moving forwards.
Background There is recognition that a reduction of consumer demand for foods that have large environmental footprints is necessary. Recent innovations in food production technologies (“food frontiers”) claim to offer gains in ecological sustainability and global food security, thereby transitioning our food system toward a more sustainable future. Yet, scientific evidence to support these claims has not been critically reviewed for several high-profile innovations. Scope and approach In this paper, we undertake a critical review of the literature on five food frontiers: cellular agriculture, climate-driven northern agricultural expansion (NAE), controlled environment agriculture (CEA), entomophagy, and seaweed aquaculture. We estimate the feasibility of each frontier’s widespread implementation by 2050 and their potential positive impacts on food system sustainability. We highlight uncertainty regarding ecological tradeoffs and future production potential in the literature, research gaps, and policy pathways that may maximize the benefits of these food frontiers. Key findings and conclusions Entomophagy, cellular agriculture, CEA, and seaweed aquaculture have similar positive impact values. Yet, CEA appears to be the most feasible technology to implement at scale. The mixed potential impacts of NAE suggest that such expansion poses multiple risks to the global food system. Standardized approaches to modeling environmental parameters in life cycle analyses are required, so that predicted impacts can be reasonably compared within and among these bodies of literature. Further critical social scientific engagement is needed to better understand the political and institutional frameworks in which these food frontiers will be implemented.
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Background: Legumes are an inexpensive, healthy source of protein, fiber, and micronutrients, have low greenhouse gas and water footprints, and enrich soil through nitrogen fixation. Although higher legume consumption is recommended under US dietary guidelines, legumes currently comprise only a minor part of the US diet. Objectives: To characterize the types of legumes most commonly purchased by US consumers and patterns of legume purchases by state and region, seasonality of legume purchases, and to characterize adults that have a higher intake of legumes. Methods: We examined grocery market, chain supermarket, big box and club stores, Walmart, military commissary, and dollar store retail scanner data from Nielsen collected 2017–2019 and dietary intake from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2017–2018. Results: The five leading types of legumes purchased in the US were pinto bean, black bean, kidney bean, lima bean, and chickpea. The mean annual per capita expenditure on legumes based on grocery purchases was $4.76 during 2017–2019. The annual per capita expenditure on legumes varied greatly by state with highest expenditure in Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and lowest expenditure in Washington, New York, and Wisconsin. There were large regional differences in the most commonly purchased legumes. Of 4,741 adults who participated in the 24-h dietary recall in NHANES, 2017–2018, 20.5% reported eating any legumes in the previous 24 h. Those who consumed legumes were more likely to be Hispanic, with a higher education level, with a larger household size (all P < 0.05), but were not different by age, gender, or income level compared to those who did not consume legumes. Conclusion: Although legumes are inexpensive, healthy, and a sustainable source of protein, per capita legume intake remains low in the US and below US dietary guidelines. Further insight is needed into barriers to legume consumption in the US.
The effects of heat-induced soy protein isolate (SPI) aggregation on enzymatic deamidation by protein-glutaminase (PG) and the emulsifying properties of deamidated products were investigated. The particle size distribution indicated that different aggregates were obtained by preheating SPI at three different temperatures (70 °C, 100 °C, 121 °C) for 10 min. The time-dependent degree of deamidation showed that aggregates formed by preheating treatment had a different influence on the PG deamidation reaction. Preheating treatment at 70 °C could accelerate the PG deamidation reaction and preheating treatment at 121 °C restrained this reaction. The molecular weight distribution revealed that PG deamidation caused the formation of larger aggregates. Electrophoresis analysis and the structural properties indicated that the aggregation caused by PG deamidation was probably a result of hydrophobic interaction and the formation of disulfide bonds. PG deamidation of native or preheated SPI can improve the emulsifying activity, especially in the sample preheated at 70 °C. For SPI samples preheated at 70 °C and 100 °C, the emulsifying stability increased by PG deamidation. In conclusion, preheating can influence the PG deamidation reaction and the emulsifying properties of deamidated products.
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What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the environment we all share. Recent analyses have highlighted the likely dual health and environmental benefits of reducing the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets. Here, we couple for the first time, to our knowledge, a region-specific global health model based on dietary and weight-related risk factors with emissions accounting and economic valuation modules to quantify the linked health and environmental consequences of dietary changes. We find that the impacts of dietary changes toward less meat and more plant-based diets vary greatly among regions. The largest absolute environmental and health benefits result from diet shifts in developing countries whereas Western high-income and middle-income countries gain most in per capita terms. Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6-10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050. We find that the monetized value of the improvements in health would be comparable with, or exceed, the value of the environmental benefits although the exact valuation method used considerably affects the estimated amounts. Overall, we estimate the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1-31 trillion US dollars, which is equivalent to 0.4-13% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050. However, significant changes in the global food system would be necessary for regional diets to match the dietary patterns studied here.
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Owing to the methane (CH4) produced by rumen fermentation, ruminants are a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) and are perceived as a problem. We propose that with appropriate regenerative crop and grazing management, ruminants not only reduce overall GHG emissions, but also facilitate provision of essential ecosystem services, increase soil carbon (C) sequestration, and reduce environmental damage. We tested our hypothesis by examining biophysical impacts and the magnitude of all GHG emissions from key agricultural production activities, including comparisons of arable- and pastoral-based agroecosystems. Our assessment shows that globally, GHG emissions from domestic ruminants represent 11.6% (1.58 Gt C y-1) of total anthropogenic emissions, while cropping and soil-associated emissions contribute 13.7% (1.86 Gt C y-1). The primary source is soil erosion (1 Gt C y-1), which in the United States alone is estimated at 1.72 Gt of soil y-1. Permanent cover of forage plants is highly effective in reducing soil erosion, and ruminants consuming only grazed forages under appropriate management result in more C sequestration than emissions. Incorporating forages and ruminants into regeneratively managed agroecosystems can elevate soil organic C, improve soil ecological function by minimizing the damage of tillage and inorganic fertilizers and biocides, and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitat. We conclude that to ensure longterm sustainability and ecological resilience of agroecosystems, agricultural production should be guided by policies and regenerative management protocols that include ruminant grazing. Collectively, conservation agriculture supports ecologically healthy, resilient agroecosystems and simultaneously mitigates large quantities of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Copyright
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Key Risks at the Global Scale Freshwater-related risks of climate change increase significantly with increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations (robust evidence, high agreement). {3.4, 3.5} Modeling studies since AR4, with large but better quantified uncertainties, have demonstrated clear differences between global futures with higher emissions, which have stronger adverse impacts, and those with lower emissions, which cause less damage and cost less to adapt to. {Table 3-2} For each degree of global warming, approximately 7% of the global population is projected to be exposed to a decrease of renewable water resources of at least 20% (multi-model mean). By the end of the 21st century, the number of people exposed annually to the equivalent of a 20th-century 100-year river flood is projected to be three times greater for very high emissions (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5)) than for very low emissions (RCP2.6) (multi-model mean) for the fixed population distribution at the level in the year 2005. {Table 3-2, 3.4.8}.
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Greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture are increasing at around 1% per annum, yet substantial cuts in emissions are needed across all sectors. The challenge of reducing agricultural emissions is particularly acute, because the reductions achievable by changing farming practices are limited,3 and are hampered by rapidly rising food demand,5. Here we assess the technical mitigation potential off�ered by land sparing—increasing agricultural yields, reducing farmland area and actively restoring natural habitats on the land spared. Restored habitats can sequester carbon and can o�set emissions from agriculture. Using the UK as an example, we estimate net emissions in 2050 under a range of future agricultural scenarios. We find that a land-sparing strategy has the technical potential to achieve significant reductions in net emissions from agriculture and land-use change. Coupling land sparing with demand-side strategies to reduce meat consumption and food waste can further increase the technical mitigation potential—however, economic and implementation considerations might limit the degree to which this technical potential could be realized in practice.
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De Oliveira Silva et al. (2016) model beef production in the Brazilian Cerrado, and conclude that – if accompanied by tight deforestation control – increasing production could lower emissions by incentivising better pasture management. While their analysis is valuable in identifying the conditions under which increasing meat consumption could be compatible with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we believe that there is little chance of such conditions occurring in practice. Overall, increasing beef consumption and production is unlikely to be an effective lever for reducing emissions, and is more likely to exacerbate deforestation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
The livestock sector supports about 1.3 billion producers and retailers, and contributes 40-50% of agricultural GDP. We estimated that between 1995 and 2005, the livestock sector was responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of 5.6-7.5 GtCO2 e yr â'1. Livestock accounts for up to half of the technical mitigation potential of the agriculture, forestry and land-use sectors, through management options that sustainably intensify livestock production, promote carbon sequestration in rangelands and reduce emissions from manures, and through reductions in the demand for livestock products. The economic potential of these management alternatives is less than 10% of what is technically possible because of adoption constraints, costs and numerous trade-offs. The mitigation potential of reductions in livestock product consumption is large, but their economic potential is unknown at present. More research and investment are needed to increase the affordability and adoption of mitigation practices, to moderate consumption of livestock products where appropriate, and to avoid negative impacts on livelihoods, economic activities and the environment.
Recent debate about agricultural greenhouse gas emissions mitigation highlights trade-offs inherent in the way we produce and consume food, with increasing scrutiny on emissions-intensive livestock products. Although most research has focused on mitigation through improved productivity, systemic interactions resulting from reduced beef production at the regional level are still unexplored. A detailed optimization model of beef production encompassing pasture degradation and recovery processes, animal and deforestation emissions, soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics and upstream life-cycle inventory was developed and parameterized for the Brazilian Cerrado. Economic return was maximized considering two alternative scenarios: decoupled livestock–deforestation (DLD), assuming baseline deforestation rates controlled by effective policy; and coupled livestock–deforestation (CLD), where shifting beef demand alters deforestation rates. In DLD, reduced consumption actually leads to less productive beef systems, associated with higher emissions intensities and total emissions, whereas increased production leads to more efficient systems with boosted SOC stocks, reducing both per kilogram and total emissions. Under CLD, increased production leads to 60% higher emissions than in DLD. The results indicate the extent to which deforestation control contributes to sustainable intensification in Cerrado beef systems, and how alternative life-cycle analytical approaches result in significantly different emission estimates.