Land use and low carbon diets
The average diet in the UK is contributing to serious health problems – over 60% of adults are overweight or obese, and about 70% of deaths in the UK are related to our diets in some way. About 70% of our land in the UK is used for agriculture, even though we import about 42% of what we eat. Agriculture is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, with 60% of emissions from livestock for meat and dairy.
Figuring our how to provide a healthier diet, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and make space for other land use requirements was a key piece of research for the latest report - Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future.
How we do it
The average UK diet in our scenario is healthier and more balanced than today's, and satisfies UK government nutritional recommendations. It uses less land, releases 75% less greenhouse gases and increases the proportion of our food we grow at home from 58% to 83%, minimising our environmental impact overseas.
Additional to some dietary changes for nutritional reasons, there is much less protein in the diet from both meat (particularly red meat) and dairy sources, and more from plant sources like beans, legumes, cereals and vegetables. We don't yet have a techno-fix for emissions from livestock, so we choose to eat more of the things that emit much less, and generally use less land.
By making these changes, we have more space for other land use requirements - food, energy and biodiversity needn't compete for land - there's enough space for everything in our scenario.
ZCB food and diets model
The ZCB food and diets model is the first to consider nutritional information, carbon emissions and land use requirements for a food group in the same model. It demonstrates the effects of producing and eating different foods, and allows us to design a healthy and balanced average diet, whilst monitoring the impact on land use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Web tool: Laura's Larder - Try it out