The greatest threat, it finds, comes from the unsustainable farming practices needed to supply the high demand for meat consumption.
The report also emphasizes that changing eating habits is crucial for minimizing food production impacts on the environment and that future generations will struggle to farm if our practices do not change.
Shift is slow but meaningful
The current shift in industrialised countries from meat towards a more varied, plant-based diet is slow but meaningful, says the report. According to a new survey, meat consumption is declining in Europe, but seemingly the shift should be more urgent. “Even replacing beef with chicken could halve carbon dioxide emissions from meat production and reduce water consumption by around 30%. The effect would be even greater if we switched to a vegetarian or vegan diet,” it continues.
Meat is inefficient and costly for the environment
According to the PwC study, about 80% of all agricultural land is used directly or indirectly for meat production. However, only 20% is farmed for vegetables, cereals, fruits, and other plants, for example, tobacco.
Meat is a relatively inefficient form of food production, the report states, and adds that “compared to plant cultivation, it requires 100 times the amount of land resources to produce a comparable amount of calories.”
The Coming Sustainable Food Revolution paper aims to review the available options to improve food sustainability by influencing diet choices at the consumer level, highlighting food’s true costs, and analyzing current food production methods.
The food industry is responsible for two-thirds of global freshwater consumption, three-quarters of nutrient pollution in water bodies, and a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. “If the world continues to invest heavily in the least productive form of food production, we risk duplicating a model that was unsustainable, to begin with,” the authors write.