La revue Viandes et produits carnés

La revue française de la recherche en viandes et produits carnés  ISSN  2555-8560




Comparison of two methods for assessing land footprint

Agricultural land used to produce our food is a limited resource and must be preserved both in quantity and in quality. French ADEME (Barbier et al., 2020a; 2020b) and Australian (Ridoutt et al., 2020; Ridoutt and Garcia 2020) studies have developed methods for assessing land footprint of vegetal and animal agricultural production. We inferred the land footprint of typical French and Australian diets. These studies provide contrasting images regarding the footprint of different types of meat. In this article, we seek to understand and analyze reasons for differences. The ADEME study does not differentiate the different types of agricultural land; it brings out beef and sheep meats, produced mostly from grassland systems, with the largest footprint. Conversely, Australian studies accounts for agricultural land according to their potential yield; they do account for permanent grasslands, and therefore highlight monogastric meats (pork, poultry) as the most impacting ones. Thus, Ridoutt method leads to a relatively limited footprint of extensive livestock farming, mostly linked to grass consumption, and more broadly of ruminant meats, compared to meats from monogastric breeding that essentially feed on cereals and therefore use arable land. In terms of diets, those methodological differences lead to large differences in the meat share (all types of meat combined) of diet land footprint: it is three times less for Australian diets with a comparable meat consumption with respect to the French diet. Considering the many ecosystem services provided by grazeland, we therefore recommend the use of the Ridoutt methodology for the calculation of agricultural land footprint.

Environmental impact of different diets

The aim of this study is to give a more complete picture of the environmental impact of different eating habits in various European countries (Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia). Using life cycle analysis, the results show that, for all five countries, the total environmental impact is the result of the amount of consumption of a specific product combined with the intensity of that impact. In particular, livestock products (meat, eggs, dairy products) have consequences for all impact categories. Conversely, the transport and marketing phases contribute very little to the total damage. In addition to agricultural practices and consumption level of food products, the impact is significantly influenced by the type of food consumed, highlighting the importance of our food choices.

How can European livestock farming act on the levers of agroecology to face climate change ?

While livestock farming contributes heavily to climate change, the latter also has direct and indirect negative impacts on livestock systems. Agroecology represents a pathway to help the European livestock sector address the challenges raised by climate change, by reducing the ecological footprint of livestock activities, increasing the self-sufficiency of farms and reducing their sensitivity to hazards. In such perspectives, it would be appropriate to develop and mobilize animal diversity within farms and territories, to take advantage of the services rendered by livestock and to improve the distribution of livestock according to the local availability of feed resources. These three points together find their full meaning as part of the re-connection of livestock activities with their physical environment and crop production. In order to accompany the agro-ecological transition, farmers’ skills should evolve, as well as the approaches of agricultural education and counseling; agricultural and territorial politics should also be adapted. Such dynamics are already in motion but will have to be pursued. In addition, economic, socio-political and institutional aspects, which have not been analyzed here, should be taken into account.

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