Saturday, 8 Aug 2020

Increasing Protein Consumption and its Environmental Consequences

Increase in protein consumption has gone up in Asian countries. The dietary shift has got its environmental consequences and not fairly considered.  Protein production is also responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions.

The continued pursuit of meat will have numerous effects on the environment and social well-being. These include food safety, nutritional challenges, growing viral and bacterial epidemic risks, rising greenhouse gas emissions, increased water use and pollution, growing land use, and impacts on the welfare of animals.

Asia Research & Engagement (ARE) in its report has modelled few critical environmental factors, due to the dietary shift.

  • Greenhouse Gas
  • Water Footprint
  • Land Use Intensity
  • Antimicrobial Use

Greenhouse Gas

GHG emissions from meat and seafood consumption in Asia will grow almost 90% from 2.9 billion tones carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to 5.4 billion tones CO2e from 2017 to 2050.

Countries with a higher proportion of beef consumption will correspondingly have a larger greenhouse gas footprint. Emission intensity can vary greatly among producers due to different farming practices, farming technology, environmental conditions and supply chain management practices.

Water Footprint

Meaning: The amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of the goods and services used by a particular person or group.

We estimate the total water footprint related to supplying Asian meat and seafood demand will increase 35% by 2030 and 83% by 2050.

The water footprint from supplying India’s meat and seafood demand will increase 63% by 2050. Although India is the second most populous country in the region, its water footprint is less than one-tenth that of China. This is primarily because meat consumption per capita in India is the lowest in Asia due to cultural factors and lower income levels. However, India’s water footprint per kilogram for pig and poultry is the highest in Asia, possibly due to inefficient production.

Land Use Intensity

Additional 81% of land will be required to meet consumption growth between 2017 and 2050

There could be increasing land-use challenges including deforestation, degradation through over-grazing, pollution, and conflicts with other land users.

In India, decreasing domestic beef consumption leads to an 8% decline in land demand by 2030 before increasing 18% by 2050.

Antimicrobial Use

Antimicrobials are frequently used in meat and seafood production, particularly pig and poultry, to ward off disease and to promote growth.

We estimate antimicrobial usage in meat and seafood production will grow 44% by 2050

WHO states that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global health today. This antimicrobial is contributing to an increase in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in humans, which is alarming isn’t?


There are multiple solutions required to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of livestock production

  • Increase crop yields
  • Reduce packaging material
  • Installation of grey water recycling equipment
  • Less fuel use to produce required feed sources
  • Improvements in packing plant water efficiency
  • Improving animal digestion/ uptake of nutrients to maximize feed-to-grain ratio
  • Use of biogas capture
  • Optimizations to reduce packaging and reduce pre-chain water use
  • Installation of covered lagoons
  • Biogas conversion by packing plants
  • Use of wet-distillers grain

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