Livestock can play a key role in feeding the growing world population in a sustainable way. A diet with a moderate amount of animal-source food could free up about one quarter of our global arable land.
Animals in such a circular food system would not consume human-edible biomass, such as grains, but mainly convert leftovers from arable land, and grass resources into valuable food. Leftovers include crop residues, co-products from industrial food processing, and losses and waste in the food system. The quality and quantity of leftovers and grass resources available for livestock determine the amount of animalsource food that can be produced.
Possibility of grassland use
To what extent grasslands can be used for ruminant production, however, is still questionable. A large proportion of available grassland was previously covered by forest and to reach biodiversity or carbon targets it is probable that grazing would need to cease on some of this grassland.
The narrative of circular food systems
Research within the Animal Production Systems group lays the scientific foundation under this so-called narrative of circular food systems. In the Netherlands, this circular food systems approach is increasingly acknowledged in industry and governmental policy.