People in industrialized regions like the United States of America or Europe are generally urged to eat less meat and animal-source foods as part of a healthier and lower-emissions diet. But such recommendations are not universal solutions in low- or middle-income countries, where livestock are critical to incomes and diets, argue scientists in recently published research in Environmental Research Letters.
“Mixed systems in low- and middle-income countries, where animal production is fully linked with crop production, can actually be more environmentally sustainable,” said An Notenbaert, from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. “In sub-Saharan Africa, manure is a nutrient resource which maintains soil health and crop productivity; while in Europe, huge amounts of manure made available through industrialized livestock production are overfertilizing agricultural land and causing environmental problems.”
“Meat production itself is not the problem. Like any food, when it is mass-produced, intensified and commercialized, the impact on our environment is multiplied,” said Polly Ericksen, Program Leader of Sustainable Livestock Systems at the International Livestock Research Institute. “Eliminating meat from our diet is not going to solve that problem. While advocating a lower-meat diet makes sense in industrialized systems, the solution is not a blanket climate solution, and does not apply everywhere.”