Future trends in livestock agriculture

Changing consumer demands and preferences

Whilst a clear trend is evident for increased animal-based protein in more affluent societies (Figure 6.6), red-meat consumption is likely to decline in most Western countries due to a combination of health and animal welfare concerns and increasing environmental awareness. It is also now clear that the total CO2-eq from crop production is lower than that of dairy or red-meat production. Coupled with this, an increasing public awareness of animal welfare, an increase in vegetarianism and a recognition of the relatively high greenhouse gas footprint of ruminant production are likely to bring about a change in protein consumption away from those based on ruminant livestock production to ones based on cropping and mono-gastric production systems, in areas where these alternative systems are viable. In a recent study, Stehfest et al (2009) explored the potential impact of dietary changes on greenhouse gas emissions. These authors concluded that a global transition to a low-meat diet would not only benefit human health, but would also halve the estimated mitigation costs required to stabilize the greenhouse gas concentration of the atmosphere to 450ppm CO2-eq. This stabilization target is expected to limit

Figure 6.6 The effect of GDP per capita on animal-based protein consumption (including fish and dairy)

Note: Purchasing power parity ($ppp) is used by the United Nations and the FAO to convert international incomes to a common standard US$ Source: FAO (2009)

temperature increases to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels (IPCC, 2007). The study did not account for any possible socio-economic changes as a result of a low-meat diet (for example effect of health changes on gross domestic product (GDP) and population numbers) or any agro-economic consequences, such as land prices, which could offset some of the estimated benefits. However, the results clearly highlight the potential greenhouse gas benefits of a low-meat diet, which, coupled with the health benefits, should be enough to give this objective serious consideration.

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