Knowledge for better food systems

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The Swedish Meat Guide – multidisciplinary research that reached society

Summer and the BBQ season are just about still here. By tradition, meat is the obvious choice for most – it is tasty, rich in protein and micronutrients and available in an abundance of forms at a reasonable price.  However, knowledge and understanding of the negative environmental and health impacts of meat is spreading. But is all meat bad or are some forms preferable over others?

This post is written by FCRN member and previous blog contributor Elin Röös and her colleague Sara Spendrup at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

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If farm animals only graze pastures and eat by-products – livestock problem solved?

This post is written by FCRN collaborator Elin RöösElin is a postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences working for the Future Agriculture initiative at the same university, which is a strategic multidisciplinary research platform that addresses the sustainable use of natural resources with emphasis on agricultural production and food systems.

About 40% of the cereals and legume grains produced every year are used to feed farm animals.  Many commentators argue that this is highly resource inefficient as around 70% of the human edible energy produced is lost in this process due to metabolic losses in the animals (Papargyropoulou et al., 2014). For example, typically 4 kg of cereals and legumes is needed to produce one kg of edible poultry meat (Röös et al., 2014), although the quantity varies by system.  By contrast raising livestock on by-products that humans can’t or don’t want to eat or waste is often considered to be a resource efficient way of producing protein for human consumption, as is raising livestock on biomass from grasslands unsuitable for the production of human edible foods e.g. natural or semi-natural pastures or other marginal grasslands.  (For a deeper discussion of the concept of efficiency please refer to the FCRN paper on efficiency).