World meat production causes twice the pollution of plant-based food production, accounting for nearly 60% of greenhouse gas emissions from food production, according to a major new study published in Nature Food.
According to this research, the entire food production system, which includes the use of agricultural machinery, spraying fertilizers and transporting products, causes the emission of 17.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases per year. This massive outgassing, which fuels the climate crisis, is more than double the total US emissions and accounts for 35% of global emissions, scientists say.
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“Emissions are at the upper limit of what we were expecting, [o que] it was a little surprise,” said Atul Jain, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois and co-author of the paper, published in Nature Food.
According to the research results, raising and slaughtering animals for food is much worse for the climate than growing and processing fruits and vegetables for people’s food. This confirms conclusions from previous studies on the impact of meat production on the environment, particularly beef.
This research revealed that the use of animals such as cows, pigs and others for food, in addition to the production of animal feed, is responsible for 57% of all emissions from food production, of which 29% come from the cultivation of staple foods. vegetable. The rest comes from other land uses, such as for cotton or rubber production. Beef alone is responsible for a quarter of the emissions produced by raising and growing food.
Grazing animals require a lot of land, which is often acquired through deforestation, as well as vast additional tracts of land to cultivate and produce their food. The article now published concludes that most of the land used for cultivation in the world is used to feed livestock and not people.
“When you combine all these data, you can see that the emissions are very high,” said Xiaoming Xu, another researcher at the University of Illinois and the paper’s lead author.
“To produce more meat it is necessary to feed more animals, which generates more emissions. It takes more biomass to feed the animals in order to get the same amount of calories. Which is not very efficient.”
The difference in emissions between meat production and plant production is marked – to produce 1 kg of wheat, 2.5 kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. While a single kilo of beef generates 70 kg of emissions. According to the scientists, societies should be aware of this significant discrepancy when facing the climate crisis.
The researchers built a database that allowed them to create a consistent profile of emissions from 171 crops and 16 animal products, extracting data from more than 200 countries. They found that South America is the region with the highest share of emissions from food of animal origin, followed by South and Southeast Asia and then China.
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