Impacts of feeding less food-competing feedstuffs to livestock on global food system sustainability
This article (PDF) in the Journal of Royal Society Interface explores how sustainable livestock production can be designed to limit its impacts on the environment and available resources. There are several strategies to curb the adverse environmental impacts of the livestock production: increase efficiency; reduce the share of animal products in human consumption or implement sustainable livestock production. In this last strategy, livestock feed components that compete with direct human food crop production are reduced. This study models the impacts and constrains of this sustainable livestock production strategy. In the outmost scenario, animals are fed only from grassland and by-products from food production. The authors show that this strategy could provide sufficient food and reduce environmental impacts compared with the reference scenario (compiled from FAO’s agricultural projections). These results occur despite the fact that environmental efficiency of livestock production is reduced, which is the consequence of the grassland-based feed for ruminants and the less optimal feeding rations based on by-products for non-ruminants. This apparent contradiction results from considerable reductions of animal products in human diets (protein intake per capita from livestock products reduced by 71%). The authors show that such a strategy focusing on feed components which do not compete with direct human food consumption offers a viable complement to strategies focusing on increased efficiency in production or reduced shares of animal products in consumption. The article shows, zero use of food competing foodstuffs would deliver substantial environmental improvements across a range of indicators as compared with the reference scenario (i.e. business as usual in 2050), and small improvements with the exception of freshwater use.