Agriculture and the agri-food industry account for a quarter of the total emissions of the European Union (EU) of these harmful gases for the climate, and the authors of the study estimate that these sectors will have to be able to divide them by four by 2050.
"A strong reduction, of 50% and even more, in the consumption of ruminant meat (bovines and sheep) is most likely inevitable if the EU objectives are to be achieved", write the four researchers, specialists in economics, environment and biology.
"We must not abandon meat completely," said Stefan Wirsenius, quoted in a statement from the university of the Chalmers Polytechnic School in Gothenburg, Sweden. "Poultry and pigs produce significantly lower emissions," he says.
The production of beef containing one kg of protein causes the emission of 200 kg of CO2, against only between 10 and 30 kg of CO2 for the equivalent in pork or chicken.
Limiting emissions from cattle (which represent 70% of those from European cattle today) also needs to reduce demand for dairy products. One kilogram of protein in dairy products causes four times more greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent in poultry products.
"For a given arable area, a shift from European production of beef to pork and / or poultry, or from dairy products to plant food, could significantly increase, and not decrease, the world supply of proteins food ”, underlined the authors of this study published in the journal Food Policy.
They explored two other methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and the agri-food sector.
The most promising is the improvement of agricultural techniques. “Emissions from manure storage can be practically eliminated if the facilities are covered and the gases burned. And emissions from fertilizer production are largely avoidable by resorting to the newest technologies, ”according to the study's lead author, David Bryngelsson.
On the other hand, reducing food waste would have relatively little impact, since these emissions would only decrease in a range between 5 and 10%.