Researchers call for “peak meat” to limit emissions by 2030

Tyler Chalfant | December 12th, 2019

A group of scientists has called on governments to “declare a timeframe for peak livestock,” expressing the need for global meat production to stabilize or decline by 2030 in order to reduce global carbon emissions. Raising livestock accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as 80% of agricultural land use while only making up 18% of food calories.

Production of meat, milk, and eggs have continued to grow along with the world population since the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was published in 1990. If current trends were to continue, livestock would account for almost half of the global emissions goals set for 2030. 

In addition to reducing the methane produced by cattle and other large livestock, the researchers also say that cutting back on meat and dairy in diets would free up land to restore forests, which are the best option for naturally removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The letter to the Lancet Planetary Health journal focuses its recommendations on wealthier nations, acknowledging that priorities must be different in developing countries where undernourishment is prevalent. For the United States, and especially Iowa, one of the country’s leading livestock producers, peak livestock will likely mean balancing economic incentives against environmental concerns.

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