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Reducing greenhouse gases while balancing demand for meat

April 10, 2019

Humans' love for meat could be hurting the planet. Many of the steps involved in the meat supply chain result in greenhouse gas emissions. But a new international study in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology evaluates several strategies that could reduce these environmental effects.

European Union meat production grew almost 16 percent between 1990 and 2016, while consumption rose 13 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This growth has placed a burden on the environment, because meat production results in more greenhouse gas emissions and requires more natural resources including land, water and energy, compared with grain-based food production. Using Germany as a test case, Gang Liu and colleagues examined the entire meat supply chain to weigh the impact of various environmental mitigation strategies on greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing meat consumption would cut emissions the most, they determined. Eating more parts of the animal -- from "nose to tail"-- would also have a significant benefit. Emissions could additionally be curbed by eliminating meat waste in retailing and in homes and restaurants, and by finding uses for slaughtering and processing byproducts. Combining all strategies the researchers studied would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the meat supply chain by 43 percent compared to 2016 levels. They say their findings could inform future policy-making related to climate change mitigation of the animal production and meat processing sector.
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The authors acknowledge funding from REFRESH (Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain), under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union.

The paper's abstract will be available on April 10 at 8 a.m. Eastern time here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.8b06079

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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