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Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers

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Food's environmental impacts are created by millions of diverse producers. To identify solutions that are effective under this heterogeneity, we consolidated data covering five environmental indicators; 38,700 farms; and 1600 processors, packaging types, and retailers. Impact can vary 50-fold among producers of the same product, creating substantial mitigation opportunities. However, mitigation is complicated by trade-offs, multiple ways for producers to achieve low impacts, and interactions throughout the supply chain. Producers have limits on how far they can reduce impacts. Most strikingly, impacts of the lowest-impact animal products typically exceed those of vegetable substitutes, providing new evidence for the importance of dietary change. Cumulatively, our findings support an approach where producers monitor their own impacts, flexibly meet environmental targets by choosing from multiple practices, and communicate their impacts to consumers.
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... The increasing demand for a Western-style diet is exerting pressure on the global food supply. The high consumption of animal products, especially beef and milk, is one of the main reasons contributing to the negative impact of the modern diet on global and individual health [6,7]. Therefore, there is great interest in shifting to a more plant-based diet when it comes to, for example, environmentally friendly or balanced nutrition to support public health at all levels of society-personal, community, national, regional, global, and planetary health. ...
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