ArabiaWeather - Did you know that replacing 100 grams of beef meatballs with meatballs made from pea protein can achieve a similar climate effect as avoiding driving 16 kilometers (10 miles)!
On the other hand, replacing one liter of cow's milk with soy milk may not have a direct impact on the climate. However, effective land management policies can increase the climate benefits of simple food system alternatives. This would increase the climate impact to 48 kilometers (29 miles) driving equivalent when replacing meatballs and 6 kilometers (4 miles) driving equivalent when replacing cow's milk.
A new study, led by Bangor University, has been conducted by a team of scientists who have identified how simple changes in nutritional habits can make a positive contribution to environmental conservation.
However, these benefits can be greater in some transitions than in others, due to complex impacts across interconnected agri-food and land-use systems. For example, a shift to soy milk may result in a decrease in the overall number of cows used in the beef industry. Therefore, more land may be available for use for other purposes, such as planting trees, which contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
This study was based on German agricultural systems, however, the results can be widely applied in most regions of Europe and countries with temperate climates. The conclusions reached by the study indicate a clear role that consumers and policy makers can play in combating climate change. Overall, the study confirms that switching from animal protein to plant protein has environmental benefits, and also indicates that these benefits are much greater when substituting beef for milk.
Marcela Porto, lead author of the study and a PhD from Bangor University, explained the process followed in the study, saying: “We applied a combination of farm modeling, scenario analysis and subsequent life cycle assessment to calculate the potential greenhouse gas emissions consequences of replacing meatballs with peas (balloons). Protein) and cow's milk with soy milk. This process revealed a complex chain of influences resulting from changes in agricultural and livestock systems within Germany and also across global commodity markets."
Legumes, such as peas and soybeans, are excellent sources of dietary protein and fiber, and fix nitrogen directly from the air, reducing the need to use chemical fertilizers. In addition, they require very little land to produce a unit of digestible protein compared to livestock systems.
Increasing the utilization of these “underutilized crops” contributes significantly to achieving positive change in food systems, and this is the main focus of the TRUE and RADIANT projects that supported this study.
David Stiles, study coordinator and honorary lecturer at Bangor University, said: “Over recent decades, the popularity of legumes has declined across Europe, as diets have centered around a small number of high-input crops that produce calories for humans and livestock. But there is growing interest. “By reintroducing legumes as positive disruptors, this type of transformation could significantly contribute to achieving the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement through improved diets and desired land uses.”
The study highlights the significant role that land use policy can play in harnessing the climate benefits of ethical consumer choices. The livestock production industry is directly or indirectly responsible for most of the land used for food production worldwide. Effective policies that promote nature-based solutions to combat climate change, such as afforestation of land not used by the livestock industry, can up to triple the climate benefits of nutritional transitions.
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