Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Food type

Different foods will have different consequences for greenhouse gas emissions, other environmental impacts and for health. This category contains links to research which analyses particular food groups including meat, fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates and dairy products.

Image: Max Pixel, Cow eating farm, CC0 Public Domain
18 September 2018

If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.

Image: skagman, Modern trawler, Skagen harbour, Denmark, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
18 September 2018

The vast majority of industrial fishing (defined as fishing vessels of over 24 metres) is done by vessels that are registered to relatively wealthy countries, according to a recent paper. Vessels registered to high income and upper middle income countries (according to World Bank classifications) accounted for 97% of industrial fishing effort in international waters and 78% of industrial fishing effort in the national waters of poorer countries. China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain together account for most of the fishing effort.

Image: Pixnio, Cows, grazing, cattle, Public Domain
12 September 2018

Writing in the Guardian, Isabella Tree of Knepp Castle Estate argues that vegan diets ignore the potential of wildlife-friendly livestock grazing methods. Tree claims that not using anti-worming agents or antibiotics allows cow dung to feed various soil organisms, contributing to soil restoration and wildlife diversity.

4 September 2018

The New York-based Guarini Centre on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law has released a report exploring the policies that US cities could use to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Three main categories of policy are proposed: informational (to raise public awareness of the health and climate implications of meat and dairy consumption), procurement policies for public institutions, and economic interventions to incentivise different purchasing patterns.

Image: Didgeman, White wine red, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
4 September 2018

Alcohol production, packaging and transport in Sweden has a carbon footprint of 52 kg CO2 eq. per person and accounts for around 3% of dietary emissions, according to a new paper by FCRN member Elinor Hallström. Per litre of beverage, wine, strong wine and liquor have higher carbon footprints than beer. This study does not include emissions from retail or consumer activities.

Image: Cliff, Swirling schools of Anchovies, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
4 September 2018

Farmed fish are often fed on forage fish (such as anchovies and sardines) caught from the wild. A new paper points out that demand for forage fish to support aquaculture production is forecast to grow beyond the maximum sustainable supply level. The authors calculate that demand for forage fish could be reduced to below the maximum supply limit by combining a number of measures: reducing use of forage fish in land-based agriculture, replacing some forage fish with fish trimmings from processing, and reducing the proportion of forage fish in the diets of non-carnivorous farmed fish.

Image: IF Half Burger, Impossible Foods Press Kit
20 August 2018

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the key ingredient in the plant-based burger created by Impossible Foods. Soy leghemoglobin, which releases a protein called heme that gives the burger its red colour and meat-like flavour, is made by Impossible Foods using genetically modified yeast. The FDA’s approval is based on the conclusions drawn by a panel of food safety experts and experimental data submitted by Impossible Foods.

20 August 2018

These two books, edited by Debashis Mandal, Amritesh C. Shukla and Mohammed Wasim Siddiqui, outline current trends in research on sustainable horticulture. Volume 1 covers diversity, production, and crop improvement while Volume 2 covers food, health, and nutrition.

Image: Chaos07, Recife coral reef mar, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
20 August 2018

The first systematic analysis of marine wilderness around the world finds that only 13% of the ocean can still be classed as wilderness, i.e. having experienced low impacts from human-caused stressors such as fertilizer runoff, fishing and climate change. Only 4.9% of that wilderness (covering 0.6% of total ocean area) falls within official marine protected areas.

Image: sarahemcc, 2 piglets at JEEP, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
31 July 2018

A new paper in Science reviews trends in meat consumption and the associated health and environmental implications. The paper also discusses potential means of influencing meat consumption levels.

24 July 2018

The FAO has released its 2018 report on world fishery and aquaculture statistics. Key findings include that fisheries output peaked in 2016, having remained approximately static since the late 1980s, while aquaculture production is rising, as shown in the figure below. In 2015, fish accounted for around 17% of global animal protein consumption. One third of fish stocks are currently overfished, although progress has been made in the United States and Australia in increasing the proportion of fish stocks that are sustainably fished.

24 July 2018

A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP, a US non-profit research and advocacy organisation) and Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN, a non-profit headquartered in Spain) finds that the five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. The top 20 meat and dairy companies have greater emissions than some nations, including the UK and Australia. The report argues that by 2050, the meat and dairy industry could account for 80% of the planet’s greenhouse gas budget if the industry grows as projected.

Image: GoodFreePhotos, Set of sushi, CC0 Public Domain
24 July 2018

Scientists used DNA barcoding (testing a short section of the genome) to check whether fish in Metro Vancouver are really the species that they are labelled as being. They found that 25% of fish sampled were mislabelled, with error rates higher in restaurants than in grocery stores or sushi bars. Since the price of the claimed species was often higher than that of the real species, the paper suggests that some labelling may be intentional. However, the paper also suggests that some errors could be due to confusion between vernacular fish names (rather than scientific species names).

17 July 2018

The UK’s Eating Better alliance has published a survey of ready meals in the main UK supermarkets. The briefing reports that only 3% of the 1350 ready meals surveyed were entirely plant-based; vegetarian, plant-based and meat substitute meals altogether made up 14% of the meals surveyed; 77% of the meals contained meat; and 10% contained fish or seafood. Some retailers sell vegan and vegetarian ready meals at a higher price than other meals, most notably Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen vegan range, which is 67% more expensive than Tesco’s regular range. Nearly one third of meat-based meals did not specify the country of origin of the meat, while only three retailers included the meat in their own-brand ready meals under their farm animal welfare policies.

Image: sarangib, Oil Palm Tree, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
17 July 2018

A recent paper assesses the carbon implications of converting Indonesian rainforests to oil palm monocultures, rubber monocultures or rubber agroforestry systems (known as “jungle rubber”). It finds that carbon losses are greatest from oil palm plantations and lowest from jungle rubber systems, in all cases being mainly from loss of aboveground carbon stocks. The paper points out that, “Thorough assessments of land-use impacts on resources such as biodiversity, nutrients, and water must complement this synthesis on C but are still not available.”

Image: Vince Smith, Bottlenose dolphins, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
10 July 2018

A study has found that people who view vegetarianism as a threat to their way of life, and those who believe in human supremacy over animals, are likely to have fewer animal species that they view as worthy of moral consideration (compared to people who do not see vegetarianism as a threat or who do not believe in human supremacy over animals). Moral attitudes varied strongly towards different animal species, for example, 90% of participants a felt moral obligation to care for the welfare of dogs, compared to 51% who felt the same obligation for pigs.

Image: William Warby, Cow in a field by the quad biking place in Devon, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett is featured in this video by UK climate website Carbon Brief, which discusses how farmers could reduce the carbon footprint of beef production. Tara points out that production-side measures only go so far, and that consumption changes are needed as well.

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