The role of animal-source food in a sustainable European diet
PhD project by Ollie van Hal. This study aims to analyse the contribution of animal-source products to a healthy European diet, when minimising the environmental impact.
There is considerable agreement that humans should reduce the environmental impact of food production and consumption, and that solutions should be tailored to a region. The current study focuses on Europe, where the rate of population growth is slowing gradually and the diet is affluent with a meat consumption of 64 kg (retail weight) per capita per year. Solutions to address sustainable food production and consumption are generally categorized as production- and consumption-side strategies. Production-side strategies use the increasing demand for animal-source food as a starting point, and suggest managerial or technical solutions to increase production efficiency and to reduce the impact per kg product. Consumption-side studies, on the other hand, focus on dietary changes, and generally conclude that shifting from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian or ideally a vegan diet reduces environmental impact.
By separating the production- and consumption-side of food production, however, these studies are unable to grasp the complexity of the food system. They do, for example, not fully consider the consequences of competition for land between feed and food production, and the multiple products produced by agricultural systems. Recently, van Kernebeek et al. (2015) was the first to develop a holistic food model that allows for variation in both production systems and consumption patterns. This Dutch case study concluded that a human diet containing a small amount of animal-source food, from animals fed on products unsuitable for direct human consumption, is more land use efficient than a vegan diet. Following van Kernebeek et al. (2015) this study aims to analyse the contribution of animal-source products to a healthy European diet, when minimising the environmental impact.
The first step to achieve this aim is to write a literature review that indicates the strengths and weaknesses of the currently used methods to analyse the potential reduction in environmental impact by production- or consumption-side strategies. The second step is to extend the Dutch case study to an EU level to analyse the role of animal-source food in the European diet, when minimising land-use. The third step is to include more impact categories, such as greenhouse gas emissions.