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Protein efficiency per unit energy and per unit greenhouse gas emissions: Potential contribution of diet choices to climate change mitigation

  • González, Alejandro D.
  • Frostell, Björn
  • Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika
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    The production, transport and processing of food products have significant environmental impacts, some of them related to climate change. This study examined the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and transport to a port in Sweden (wholesale point) of 84 common food items of animal and vegetable origin. Energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for food items produced in different countries and using various means of production were compared. The results confirmed that animal-based foods are associated with higher energy use and GHG emissions than plant-based foods, with the exception of vegetables produced in heated greenhouses. Analyses of the nutritional value of the foods to assess the amount of protein delivered to the wholesale point per unit energy used or GHG emitted (protein delivery efficiency) showed that the efficiency was much higher for plant-based foods than for animal-based. Remarkably, the efficiency of delivering plant-based protein increased as the amount of protein in the food increased, while the efficiency of delivering animal-based protein decreased. These results have implications for policies encouraging diets with lower environmental impacts for a growing world population.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030691921100090X
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Food Policy.

    Volume (Year): 36 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 5 (October)
    Pages: 562-570

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:36:y:2011:i:5:p:562-570
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/foodpol

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    1. Michaelowa, Axel & Dransfeld, Björn, 2008. "Greenhouse gas benefits of fighting obesity," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2-3), pages 298-308, June.
    2. Veysset, P. & Lherm, M. & Bébin, D., 2010. "Energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and economic performance assessments in French Charolais suckler cattle farms: Model-based analysis and forecasts," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 41-50, January.
    3. Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika & Ekstrom, Marianne Pipping & Shanahan, Helena, 2003. "Food and life cycle energy inputs: consequences of diet and ways to increase efficiency," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2-3), pages 293-307, March.
    4. David Pimentel, 2009. "Energy Inputs in Food Crop Production in Developing and Developed Nations," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(1), pages 1-24, January.
    5. Faye Duchin, 2004. "Sustainable Consumption of Food," Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics 0405, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics.
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