IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Producing oat drink or cow's milk on a Swedish farm — Environmental impacts considering the service of grazing, the opportunity cost of land and the demand for beef and protein


  • Röös, Elin
  • Patel, Mikaela
  • Spångberg, Johanna


There are plant-based alternatives to cow's milk that resemble milk in appearance and function, but differ nutritionally. These are associated with lower land use and environmental impact than milk. However, there are places where dairy herds contribute positively to conservation of high nature value pastures through their grazing. The dairy system also produces meat, but it can be questioned how much beef is needed/demanded. This study evaluated the environmental impact of production of oat drink in comparison with production of milk in terms of: i) the necessity for sufficient grazing animals in the landscape for biodiversity conservation; ii) different perspectives on the need for beef and protein; iii) the opportunity cost of land; and iv) the differing protein content of milk and oat drink. The climate impact, eutrophication and acidification potential and ecotoxicity impacts of a typical Swedish dairy farm were calculated and compared with those of the same farm when milk production was replaced by production of oat drink and three different alternatives to dairy beef: 1) beef from suckler herds; 2) chicken; and 3) plant-based protein. In all scenarios, the same area of semi-natural grassland was grazed. The opportunity cost of land use was included by producing bioenergy on spare land. The direct greenhouse gas emissions were considerably lower (16–41%) for all oat drink scenarios than for the milk scenario. When the bioenergy produced on the spare land was assumed to replace diesel, this substitution effect together with the carbon sequestration in soils cancelled out the direct emissions almost entirely when chicken or plant-based protein was produced instead of beef. The eutrophication potential was similar for all scenarios, while the acidification potential was 21–37% higher in the oat drink scenarios due to the need for handling increased amounts of digestate from bioenergy (biogas) production. This explorative study demonstrated great potential for reduced climate impact through production of oat drink instead of cow's milk, while still preserving grazing services for biodiversity conservation. However, for this to happen, incentives to manage semi-natural grassland need to be introduced, as such management is not an inherent effect of oat drink production. In addition, for the environmental benefits demonstrated in this study to come about, consumers must be incentivised to consume oat drink instead of milk and, to achieve the largest climate impact reductions, to replace some beef with chicken or cereals and legumes.

Suggested Citation

  • Röös, Elin & Patel, Mikaela & Spångberg, Johanna, 2016. "Producing oat drink or cow's milk on a Swedish farm — Environmental impacts considering the service of grazing, the opportunity cost of land and the demand for beef and protein," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 23-32.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:142:y:2016:i:c:p:23-32 DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2015.11.002

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nijdam, Durk & Rood, Trudy & Westhoek, Henk, 2012. "The price of protein: Review of land use and carbon footprints from life cycle assessments of animal food products and their substitutes," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 760-770.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:142:y:2016:i:c:p:23-32. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.