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Impacts of feeding less food-competing feedstuffs to livestock on global food system sustainability

Schader, Christian; Müller, Adrian; El-Hage Scialabba, Nadia; Hecht, Judith; Isensee, Anne; Erb, Karl-Heinz; Smith, Pete; Makkar, Harinder P.S.; Klocke, Peter; Leiber, Florian; Schwegler, Patrizia; Stolze, Matthias and Niggli, Urs (2015) Impacts of feeding less food-competing feedstuffs to livestock on global food system sustainability. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12 (0891), pp. 1-12.

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Increasing efficiency in livestock production and reducing the share of animal products in human consumption are two strategies to curb the adverse environmental impacts of the livestock sector. Here,we explore the roomfor sustainable livestock production by modelling the impacts and constraints of a third strategy in which livestock feed components that compete with direct human food crop production are reduced. Thus, in the outmost scenario, animals are fed only from grassland and by-products from food production. We show that this strategy could provide sufficient food (equal amounts of human-digestible energy and a similar protein/calorie ratio as in the reference scenario for 2050) and reduce environmental impacts comparedwith the reference scenario (in the most extreme case of zero human-edible concentrate feed: greenhouse gas emissions 218%; arable land occupation 226%, N-surplus 246%; P-surplus 240%; non-renewable energy use 236%, pesticide use intensity 222%, freshwater use 221%, soil erosion potential 212%). These results occur despite the fact that environmental efficiency of livestock production is reduced compared with the reference scenario, 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%). We 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.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:food security, livestock, sufficiency, consistency, sustainable intensification, food system, Department of Socio-Economic Sciences, Sustainability assessment
Agrovoc keywords:
food security
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Feeding and growth
Food systems > Recycling, balancing and resource management
Research affiliation: Switzerland > ETHZ - Agrarwissenschaften
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Society > Rural sociology
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability
Germany > Other organizations
Austria > Other organizations
Deposited By: Schader, Dr. Christian
ID Code:29549
Deposited On:15 Dec 2015 14:41
Last Modified:16 Mar 2022 15:02
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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