Three projects are concerned
with the environmental sustainability of protein foods and the comparative
evaluation of meat with NPFs.
Economic approach to
environmental sustainability of protein foods
animal production systems in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands result
in a series of environmental problems mainly due to manure surplus. This
study aims to make contributions to identifying the solutions to the
problems related to protein production and consumption.
The first contribution is the theoretical modelling of environmental
problems. Theoretically we represent the environmental impacts by including
the biophysical process of environmental changes and the feedback to the
economy in welfare optimization and equilibrium models. However, this often
brings non-convexities and thus has implications for policy recommendations,
because a non-convex program usually has multiple local optima and has the
difficulty of decentralization. Particularly we illustrate how to solve a
non-convex program using parameterization for the interaction between pork
and crop production and how to check decentralizing ability of the welfare
The second contribution is a systematic analysis of protein chains, which
provides information on their environmental pressures. We use the
environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) to compare the environmental
pressures of a Dutch pork chain and a pea-based chain for Novel Protein
Foods (NPFs). We conclude that NPFs are environmentally more friendly than
pork in terms of some environmental pressure indicators.
The third contribution is the empirical application of Applied General
Equilibrium (AGE) models to analyse the economic and environmental impacts
of enhanced consumption of NPFs under different scenarios in the global
context. Our model results show that an exogenous shift from animal protein
foods to NPFs in the EU, which is represented by an increased expenditure
share of NPFs in protein budget, will decrease the NH3 emissions.
If the EU consumers are willing to pay to improve the air quality, the EU
will reduce the pork production and increase pea production. If the "rich" consumers consume more NPFs through lifestyle change in meat
consumption, the global emissions of NH3, N2O and CH4
will be reduced.
For more information please
contact Xueqin Zhu
environmental assessment of protein products: the impact on ecosystem
PROFETAS it is proposed that a shift from animal to plant foods in the
Western diet is environmentally more sustainable than the present trend of
protein consumption. To test the hypothesis, an instrument is required to
assess the impact of protein food supply on environmental sustainability and
compare different protein production systems.
Central to the
assessment is the assumption that environmental sustainability refers to
safeguarding future flows of ecosystem services and the ecosystem functions
that generate these services cf. De
Groot et al. (2002). However,
quantification of the impact of food production on ecosystem functioning and
the provision of nature's services is difficult. Instead the deployment of
ecosystem processes (functions) to mitigate the effects of protein
production activities is used as a measure of environmental sustainability.
For example, P-outputs can be expressed as a function of P-retention in
wetlands. Key functions for the assessment of protein production are those
that are concerned with land use, N and P inputs and outputs, water use and
To be able to compare the different kind of impacts, the use of nature's
services is converted and aggregated to units of area (ha) and time (yr).
The assessments are an adaptation from the Ecological Footprint method of
Wackernagel and Rees (1996)
, and their idea to convert the appropriation of natural
resources of a population to productive area.
first estimate indicates a 6 times smaller impact on environmental
sustainability of the pea-NPF chain compared to the pork production chain.
The functions associated with crop production and P-emissions appear to
require most area and time.
De Groot, R.
S., Wilson, M. A., & Boumans, R. M. J. (2002) Ecological Economics,
vol. 41, pp. 393-408.
M. and Rees, W.E. (1996) Our ecological footprint. Reducing human impact on
more information please contact Martine
of ecological indicators for sustainable food production
meat and plant protein production exert significant pressures on the
environment. However, the pressures exerted by meat production exceed those
of plant production many times, in both magnitude and extent of area
affected. To determine the impact of food production it is important to know
not only how many natural resources are used and how large environmental
emissions are, but also where these processes occur and what ecosystems are
affected. A detailed analysis such as LCA can shed a lot of insight on the
magnitude question, but because of the scarcity of good international data
this approach is less suited to deal with the spatial dimension.
Environmental indicators can help us in situations where not all data is
available to still make a good first approximation and are thus well suited
to address the spatial dimension. For the PROFETAS project a case study was
made of pea and pig production in the Netherlands and their global
dimensions. Based on a set of 7 pressure indicators (area use, energy use,
water use, nutrient use, eutrophication, acidification, and global warming)
it was found that pig production exerts 4 to 200 times more pressure on the
environment than pea production. For pig production most of the required
natural resources are used outside the Netherlands (spread over 5
continents) with 30 to 40% of the burden placed on third world countries.
About half of the contribution to eutrophication and global warming takes
place abroad as well. Only for acidification is about 60% of the pressure
located in The Netherlands. These results clearly highlight the importance
of the spatial dimension in assessing the environmental consequences of food
production and in analyzing differences between plant and animal production
more information please contact
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