Public Release: 

Livestock, food supply, and greenhouse gases

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study explores the potential impacts of removing animals from US agriculture. Reducing animal agriculture has been suggested to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase food security. Robin White and Mary Beth Hall modeled the effects of removing farmed animals from the US agricultural system on the food supply and on GHG emissions. Elimination of animal agriculture removed all animal-derived foods from the diet. In the modeled scenarios, total food production by US agriculture without animals was 23% greater than with animals, primarily due to increased availability of grains and legumes for food. In simulated diets for the US population based on actual foods available, relying solely on plant-derived foods that could be grown in the United States or are currently imported resulted in increased vitamin, mineral, and fatty acid deficiencies and increased excess of energy, compared with diets that included animal-derived foods. Agricultural GHG emissions from animal-free agriculture were 28% lower than from current US agriculture, but the reduction did not fully offset animal GHG contributions because of increased food crop production and the need to synthesize fertilizer to replace manure. The results suggest that removal of animals from US agriculture could result in unintended nutrient deficiencies and reduce GHG to a lesser extent than would be expected, according to the authors.

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Article #17-07322: "Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture," by Robin R. White and Mary Beth Hall.

MEDIA CONTACT: Robin R. White, Virginia Institute of Technology, Blacksburg, VA; tel: 509-701-9290; e-mail: <rrwhite@vt.edu>; Mary Beth Hall, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI; tel: 608-890-0078; email: <marybeth.hall@ars.usda.gov>

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