Lower pork consumption and technological change in feed production can reduce the pork supply chain environmental footprint in China

Tong, Bingxin; Zhang, Ling; Hou, Yong; Oenema, Oene; Long, Weitong; Velthof, Gerard; Ma, Wenqi; Zhang, Fusuo


Nearly half of global pork production and consumption occurs in China, but the transition towards intensification is associated with worsening environmental impacts. Here we explore scenarios for implementing structural and technological changes across the pork supply chain to improve environmental sustainability and meet future demand. Following the middle-of-the-road socio-economic pathway (SSP2), we estimate that the environmental footprint from the pork supply chain will increase by ~50% from 2017 to 2050. Utilizing technologies that improve feed crop production and manure management could reduce phosphorus and nitrogen losses by three-quarters and one-third, respectively, with modest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and cropland area. Reducing pork consumption had substantial mitigation potential. Increased feed and pork imports would decrease domestic environmental footprints and meet demand, but increase footprints elsewhere. We conclude that farm-specific technologies and structural adjustments can support the development of rural, small-scale pig farms near cropland and promote circular economy principles.