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Save the Planet – eat less beef and dairy?

Forget solar panels and wind farms for a minute, could a country meet its climate target by dramatically reducing beef and dairy consumption? They certainly seem to think so in Europe.

Emissions from agricultural production currently account for about 25 percent of European greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers in Sweden suggest that agricultural emissions in Europe need to be reduced by three-quarters, and are focusing on bread and butter issues of how to reduce consumption of cheese, beef, yoghurt and fresh milk.

A recent report in Food Policy journal also suggested that emissions from manure storage could be “all but eliminated” and emissions from fertiliser production could largely be avoided with investment in the latest technology.

But, ultimately, something will have to give, and the first target appears to be the European appetite for beef, an industry that generates not just carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen emissions, but massive releases of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent, if less long-lasting, than CO2.

“We don’t have to give up meat entirely,” says Stefan Wirsenius, senior lecturer in energy and environment at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg.

“Poultry and pork cause rather low emissions, in a range equivalent to 10 to 30 lbs (4.5-13.6 kg) of carbon dioxide per pound (450 g) of protein, while beef causes 200 lbs (900 kg) per pound protein.

“So we can continue to eat pork – provided we cut back on beef,” said Wirsenius. [Editor’s note: the Bulletin is however concerned about pork consumption because of the severe animal welfare issues besetting intensively raised pigs. Ditto chickens. Better perhaps to pull back on several fronts.]

“The EU and US consumption of cheese and other dairy products is among the highest in the world and causes a climate impact equal to that of their pork and chicken consumption.

“If we were to replace some of the dairy products with vegetable products, such as oat milk, we would have a better chance of meeting our climate targets.”

Source: Climate News Network

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