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German researchers found that the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions result from organic meat production as regular meats.
To do this, the scientists calculated the emissions produced during the manufacture of regular and organic meat, that is, it has not been treated by any process in the meat industry such as the use of hormones, antibiotics and anabolics, as well as foods of plant origin.
Organic and regular beef are equally bad for the environmentthey concluded, while organic chicken actually generates slightly more greenhouse gas emissions overall. The study was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.
The study compared greenhouse gas emissions resulting from traditional, organic and vegetable meat production (Shutterstock)
Based on their findings, the team proposes that policy measures – “meat taxes” – are needed to close the gap between current market prices and true food costs. These kinds of taxes, the team said, would require a 40 percent increase in the cost of regular meat, but only a 25 percent increase for organic meat, which is already more expensive.
In his study, the policy and technology researcher Maximilian Pieper from the Technical University of Munich and his colleagues worked to calculate external climate costs, specifically with regard to greenhouse emissions, of various food products.
The team classified the products they analyzed into one of three categories. These included conventional meat production, organic meat production, and plant-based food production.
Then took into account the emissions produced during the stages of each production process, including those released during the cultivation and processing of food and fertilizers, for example, and methane emitted by animals and manure.
While organic meat recorded emission reductions in some areas, such as not using fertilizers to grow the food needed for animals, these savings were generally offset by increased methane emissions from the animals themselves.
This complication arose as a result of the slower growth rates of the animals and the fact that tend to produce less meat per individual, which means organic farms must raise more animals to meet the same level of demand.
Organic meat farms tend to produce less meat per individual, which means that organic farms must raise more animals to meet the same level of demand (photo: Shutterstock)
The team especially discovered that organic and regular beef result in the same net level of emissions, while organically grown chicken actually produces more emissions than when the meat is raised conventionally.
However, on the contrary, Organic pork was found to generate fewer emissions than those produced by normal pork manufacturing. “As the results show, the production of animal products, especially meat, causes the highest emissions,” the researchers wrote in their article, noting that the findings are consistent with the findings of several previous studies.
A food technician tests a 3D-printed cooked plant-based steak that mimics real beef and produced by Israeli start-up Redefine Meat during a demonstration for Reuters at its facility in Rehovot, Israel, June 29, 2020. REUTERS / Amir cohen
“These high emissions come from resource-intensive meat production, due to inefficient conversion of feed into animal products,” they added.
“Organic regulations prescribe [e] a certain amount of land per animal, which is higher compared to the average conventional production, as well as a higher age of life and lower productivity of organically produced food and farmed animals”, They recommended. This would counteract or even reverse the described positive aspects of organic animal husbandry.
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