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Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Apr 10. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b06079. [Epub ahead of print]

Efficiency and Carbon Footprint of the German Meat Supply Chain.

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Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research , Chinese Academy of Sciences , 100101 Beijing , P. R. China.
SDU Life Cycle Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology, and Environmental Technology , University of Southern Denmark , 5230 Odense , Denmark.
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences , 100049 Beijing , P. R. China.
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Department of Water-Atmosphere-Environment , Institute of Waste Management , 1190 Vienna , Austria.
RISE Agrifood and Bioscience , SE 402 29 Gothenburg , Sweden.


Meat production and consumption contribute significantly to environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These emissions can be reduced via various strategies ranging from production efficiency improvement to process optimization, food waste reduction, trade pattern change, and diet structure change. On the basis of a material flow analysis approach, we mapped the dry matter mass and energy balance of the meat (including beef, pork, and poultry) supply chain in Germany and discussed the emission reduction potential of different mitigation strategies in an integrated and mass-balance consistent framework. Our results reaffirmed the low energy conversion efficiency of the meat supply chain (among which beef was the least efficient) and the high GHG emissions at the meat production stage. While diet structure change (either reducing the meat consumption or substituting meat by edible offal) showed the highest emissions reduction potential, eliminating meat waste in retailing and consumption and byproducts generation in slaughtering and processing were found to have profound effect on emissions reduction as well. The rendering of meat byproducts and waste treatment were modeled in detail, adding up to a net environmental benefit of about 5% of the entire supply chain GHG emissions. The combined effects based on assumed high levels of changes of important mitigation strategies, in a rank order considering the level of difficulty of implementation, showed that the total emission could be reduced by 43% comparing to the current level, implying a tremendous opportunity for sustainably feeding the planet by 2050.


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