Limiting livestock production to pasture and by-products in a search for sustainable diets
In this article (PDF) in the Food Policy journal a method was developed for designing ‘fair’ diets (not using more than globally available arable land per capita) and for assessing the sustainability of such diets. The diets were based on the principle of ‘ecological leftovers’ for livestock production, i.e. raising livestock on pasture and by-products not suitable for or wanted by humans. The method was applied to Sweden using three different scenarios for livestock production, all taking the starting point that semi-natural pastures should be grazed by ruminants for reasons of biodiversity conservation. The scenarios also included differing use of by-products (from crop production and food processing) to either boost milk production (I-Milk scenario) or produce eggs and pig meat (E-Milk and Suckler scenarios). The environmental impacts of the diets were assessed using the planetary boundaries framework. The results showed substantially lower environmental impacts compared with the average current Swedish diet, but the strict absolute climate boundary and the N and P input boundaries were still exceeded for all diets. The approach adopted, of letting the ecological resource capacity act as the constraining factor for livestock production, is in line with agro-ecology principles and efficient use of land to improve food security, and could be useful in discussions about sustainable consumption of animal products.